GASL side event at CFS week -FAO Headquarters

Is low carbon meat possible?

This side event is organized by the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL). GASL is a multi-stakeholder partnership that provides a platform, regionally and locally rooted, to respond to the need for collective and coherent action to address the sector’s unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

Population growth, urbanization, and rising income are rapidly raising the demand for animal products, particularly in low and middle income countries. Livestock provides multiple benefits and plays a role not only as a source of dietary nutrients, but also as a source of income, employment, draught power, fuel, soil nutrients, and insurance, in addition to having cultural and religious significance in some countries. On the other hand, livestock production is one of the world’s largest user of land, and also one of the main contributors to anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from feed production (N2O, CO2), enteric methane (CH4), animal waste (N2O, CH4), and land use change associated with livestock (CO2).

Emissions can be reduced through improvements in productivity with concomitant decreases in emission intensity. Around the world, meat production varies widely, from extensive pastoralist or ranching to intensive production of pork and poultry, and beef feedlot. Accordingly, GHG emission intensity (emission per unit of output) differs widely, even among producers in the same area. Emission intensity often can be reduced by increasing animal productivity through better feed, genetics and health care. Such productivity-raising measures also heave the potential to increase food production and income, and spur rural development.

Well managed grassland can capture carbon, thereby generating offsets that reduce net emissions. Grasslands and rangelands cover almost 70% of the global agricultural land, and have the potential to sequester carbon into the soil if appropriate grazing management practices are adopted. Biomass production is typically higher in grazed rather than ungrazed pastures, and grazing can reduce fire (open burning) and contribute to biodiversity. However, a large part of pasture, in particular in tropical regions, is degraded because of overgrazing, institutional weaknesses and lack of technical options at local level.

Emissions can be reduced by integrating livestock better in the circular economy. Livestock waste can be converted into energy (biomass) and nutrient can be recovered. Meat production also depends to a large extent on inedible biomass in the form of waste and by-products. A focus on waste helps to reduce the use of external inputs, to close nutrient cycles, and to reduce emissions at all stages of production and consumption.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) set the long-term commitments of the countries adhering to the Paris Agreement in addressing climate change aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. From the 195 countries that signed the agreement, 57 countries included livestock in their mitigation priorities and 44 included livestock in their adaptation plans.

The application of effective policies is complex and depends on the integration of science, behavioral economics, markets, governments and consumers (multi-stakeholders) into policy designing in order to evaluate opportunities, synergies and trade-offs, and guarantee the promotion of environmental and social benefits.