Animal health is important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says a new report

Improving animal health can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but clearer approaches to measuring progress are essential if countries are to include it in their national climate targets, a new report suggests.

Source: aleksandarlittlewolf on Freepik

Diseases in animals, how long they live and how productive they are can have a significant impact on GHG emissions Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Dairy Platform and Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, Right The role of animal health in national climate commitments.

This means that significant investments are needed to develop measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems. Currently, there is no standardized method for including improved animal health in most countries’ GHG national inventories or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). As a result, the importance of animal health is not clearly seen in countries’ commitments to combat climate change.

“This report is a major achievement in highlighting the importance of animal health and assessing the role of countries and how it should be included in national commitments to help address the climate crisis,” said FAO’s Maria Helena Semedo. Deputy Director General.

Animal health is important for sustainable production.

“The livestock sector provides vital nutrition and livelihoods to more than a billion people. This briefing shows how governments and industry can work together on climate solutions and is part of the global dairy sector’s initiative towards Dairy Net Zero,” said Donald Moore, Executive Director of the Global Dairy Platform. He said.

“While this report clearly shows the potential for improved animal health to contribute to climate mitigation, it also highlights the need to address critical data gaps and build capacity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Governments and the sector must support long-term investment in research and animal health.” Creating an enabling environment for policies and programs to realize their full potential,” says Hayden Montgomery, GRA Special Representative.

The report shows how countries can develop MRV systems at the national level so that they can incorporate animal health improvements into their national climate commitments.

But to do so, it is important for countries to use detailed methods known as Level 2 or Level 3, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

While the commonly used Tier 1 approach only allows estimation of GHG emissions per animal relative to regional averages, Tier 2 addresses specific domestic production systems. This includes herd parameters to estimate the impact on animal numbers such as mortality, fertility, first calving and replacement rates, as well as production data including milk yield and animal weight at different life stages.

Feed information for different animal categories and fertilizer management systems are also important because these have a significant impact on emissions. Measuring parameters such as methane (CH4) conversion factor may require the use of complex modeling and associated data from Tier 3 approaches, the report says.

A key challenge concerns how emissions from the livestock sector are incorporated into national GHG inventories and NDCs. In their inventories, countries report direct emissions at the sector level. Emissions from the livestock sector include CH4 emissions from animal digestive systems and CH4 and nitrous oxide (N2O) from manure management. Emissions from feed production, processing and transportation, and energy use are reported in the “agricultural soil” or energy sector.

At the same time, the animal health intervention cannot be taken separately at the animal level because it affects only direct emissions. For example, supply chain emissions may decrease due to reduced demand for replacement animals or changes in feed rations. Therefore, it is important to adopt a systems perspective and understand the drivers of supply chain emissions.

Among other recommendations of the report:

• A data collection and maintenance system should be established that includes stakeholders from the sector. The approach taken should involve all actors in the field, including research and academia and the private sector, as well as science and industry and development partners who contributed to the report, such as the World Bank and IFAD.

• An integrated life cycle assessment and systems perspective should be considered to consider indirect emission reductions due to improved animal health (eg changes in feed use, pasture use, energy use).

• The capacity of governments and partners to calculate and account for emissions throughout the value chain should be increased.

FAO recognizes animal health as essential to sustainable livestock production. Livestock products are not only a source of high-quality food, but also a source of income for many small farmers and livestock owners, contributing significantly to the livelihoods and GDP of many developing countries. You can learn more about FAO’s work in animal health.

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