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What’s the score on GHG emission from animal production?


THE FOLLOWING is  an abstract from a paper entitled “GHG Emissions from Animal Production in the Asian Pacific  Region—Trends, Drivers and Mitigation Prospects" written by Dr. Harry Clark, Director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Dr. Clark delivered his paper in the recently conducted FFTC sponsored workshop on “Mitigation of Greenhouse gases and Adaptation to Climate Change in Livestock Production Systems” held in Kyushu Sango University, Fukuoka, Japan.

The Asia Pacific region produces a significant proportion of the world’s livestock related non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Data from the FAO on emissions from enteric fermentation, manure management, and animal manure directly deposited on pastures suggests that in 1960, approximately 33% of the World’s emissions from these sources came from the Asian Pacific region. By 2014, this proportion had risen to 41%. Within the region, emissions are dominated by Asia, which produced 28% of global emissions in 1961 and 38% in 2012. This increased proportion of the world’s livestock related emissions comes against a background of a general increase in emissions from all regions of the world except Europe.

Within the Asian region, five countries dominate—Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan—and in between them, they currently produce ~75% of the region’s total estimated livestock related emissions. Between 1961 and 2012 estimated emissions from these countries increased by 80, 162, 70, 96 and 303%, respectively. In Oceania, Australia and New Zealand dominate and between them are currently responsible for 97% of estimated emissions and their emissions grew -3.0 and 18% respectively between 1961 and 2012.

Seeing the future

Forecasting future livestock emissions is highly uncertain but FAO estimates that emissions from the Asian Pacific region will continue to increase and by 2050, will comprise 44% of the world’s total livestock related emissions. Within the region, emissions are forecast to rise fastest in China (75%) followed by Pakistan (24%). In Oceania, emissions from Australia and New Zealand are projected to rise by 17 and 30%, respectively. In the 1961-2012 period, emissions increased by an average of just over 2% per annum in the Asian pacific region while between 2013 and 2050 period, emissions are projected to increase by around 1% per annum.

Increased populations have been a major driver of increases in livestock related GHG emissions. In Asia alone, the human population has risen from approximately 1.7 billion in 1961 to close to 4.3 billion in 2012. The production of milk and meat from ruminant animals alone has been increasing by more than a factor of six over the corresponding period. In the two dominant Oceania countries, increased exports of animal products due to favorable world prices have been the principal driver of increases in livestock emissions. Changing dietary preferences have also had an influence. Across the Asian region per capita consumption of milk and meat has been increasing, for example, in China, whole milk and ruminant meat supply available for consumption per person increased by 1520% (1.8 to 29.7kg/capita/yr) and 3150% (0.24 to 7.8 kg/capita/yr) between 1961 and 2012. The influence that future changes in dietary preference may have is reflected in the projected emissions from China, a 75% increase by 2050 despite a static population.

Although absolute emissions from livestock have increased markedly since 1961, increases in the efficiency in which animal products are produced have resulted in consistent falls in emissions intensity i.e. the quantity of GHG emitted per unit of animal product. Dividing total emissions by total animal product (milk plus meat) indicates that emissions per unit of product in 2012 were only a third of the 1961 value.

Challenges and technologies

Reducing emissions from livestock activities is a difficult challenge. Increasing the efficiency of production can play a major role in reducing future emissions, and for many farmers, this is the most viable route in the short term. In particular, better feeding, improved animal health and improved animal genetics will enable farmers to meet the increased demand for food while minimizing increases in GHG emissions. However, in the longer term, if livestock agriculture is to make a meaningful contribution to reducing atmospheric concentrations of non-CO2 gases, additional technologies are likely to be required, technologies that directly reduce emissions per unit of feed consumed, nitrogen fertilizer applied and per unit of manure deposited in waste management systems or directly onto pasture. Some of these technologies are already available and in widespread use in some countries and systems, for example methane bio-digesters. However, their impact on the ruminant sector and hence on total livestock emissions is currently small. Other technologies with high mitigation potential, such as anti-methanogen vaccines and enteric methane inhibitory compounds, are still at the experimental proof of concept stage and have substantial technical, regulatory and financial hurdles to oversome before they are market ready.

Dr. Harry Clark, Director, New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is the author of the paper entitled "GHG Emissions from Animal Production in the Asian Pacific Region--Trends, Driver and Mitigation Prospects." He presented his paper in the FFTC sponsored workshop in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

Forecasting livestock emissions is highly uncertain but FAO estimates that emissions from the Asian Pacific region will continue to increase and by 2050, will comprise 44% of the world's total livestock related emissions. 

Speakers and participants of the satellite workshop on "Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases and Adaptation to Climate Change in Livestock Production Systems" pose for a group photo. The workshop is held in Kyushu, Sango University, Fukuoka, Japan and is jointly sponsored by FFTC, NARO and JIRCAS.

Dr. Mei Ping Cheng of the Livestock Research Institute in Taiwan delivers her paper entitled: "Strategies on Climate Change Adaptation and GHG Mitigation of Animal Industry in Taiwan.

Dr. Takumi Shinkai of NILGS in Japan presents his paper on "Approach Towards Mitigation of Enteric Methane from Ruminants in Japan." This is part of the satellite workshop on "Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases and Adaptation to Climate Change in Livestock Production Systems."