Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States

As poverty rates continue to fall around the world, many more people will be able to afford to add animal products to their diets.

The global livestock sector contributes a significant share to greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also deliver a significant share of the mitigation effort to address climate change. Beef and cattle milk production account for the majority of emissions, while pork, poultry meat, and eggs contribute a smaller share of the sector’s overall emissions.

A major opportunity to reduce emissions is to improve grazing systems in developing countries. Better feeding, animal health, and herd management practices would substantially reduce emissions.

Public policies should help to reduce the risk for farmers in adopting these practices. This is particularly important in countries where limited access to credit and risk-averse strategies discourage farmers from adopting novel options requiring upfront investment. Public and private sector policies also have a crucial role to play in supporting research and development to improve existing technologies and to provide new solutions for mitigation.

It is only by involving all sector stakeholders (private and public sector, civil society, research and academia, and international organizations) that solutions can be developed that address the sector’s diversity and complexity. Climate change is a global issue and livestock supply chains are increasingly internationally connected. Mitigation actions also need to be global.

Photo credit: Crystaline Randazzo for Bread for the World

Adapted from Pierre J. Gerber et al. (2013), Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock: A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.