Animal health is vital in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but greater investment by countries is needed to evaluate the impact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners said in a report published on Thursday.
Diseases affecting animals, how long they live and how productive they are all have a significant impact on GHG emissions, says the report entitled “The role of animal health in national climate commitments.”
The report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Dairy Platform and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, points out that there is currently no standardized way of including improved animal health in the commonly used approaches for developing (GHG) national inventories or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). It also transpires that the mitigation co-benefits of using animal health as an adaptation measure are not always explicit in the NDC commitments.
In such a context, the partners are advocating greater investments to establish systems for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV).
FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo noted that the report marked a breakthrough in highlighting the importance of animal health and guiding countries towards a much more granular approach in evaluating its role and how it needs to be incorporated into national commitments to help mitigate the climate crisis.
ADDRESS CRITICAL GAPS
The report outlines how governments and industry can work together on climate solutions and is part of an initiative by the global dairy sector to reduce emissions over the next 30 years.
Noting that livestock sector provides vital nutrition and livelihoods for more than a billion people worldwide, Global Dairy Platform Executive Director Donald Moore said that the report demonstrates how governments and industry can work together on climate solutions and is part of the global dairy sector’s Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative. GRA Special Representative Hayden Montgomery also opined that Governments and the sector should support long term investments in research and create the enabling environment for animal health policies and programmes to realise their full potential.
The report shows how countries can develop an MRV system at national level, using detailed methodologies developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It said that countries should use the detailed methodologies known as Tier 2 or 3, developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
When Tier 1 only allows for estimating emissions per animal with regional averages, Tier 2 examines specific local production systems. This includes herd parameters to estimate impacts on animal numbers such as mortality, fertility, age at first parturition and replacement rate, as well as production data including milk yields and animal weights at different life stages.
Data on feed for different categories of animals and manure management systems are also critical as these have a strong influence on emission factors. Measuring parameters such as the methane (CH4) conversion factor may even require using Tier 3 approaches with more complex modelling and associated data, the report says.
• A data collection and maintenance system needs to be established that includes stakeholders from across the sector, which will add value to the animal health intelligence gathering at national and international levels. The approach taken must be inclusive of all actors in the sector, including research and academia and the private sector, as well as science and industry and development partners such as the World Bank and IFAD who contributed to the report.
• A combined life cycle assessment and systems perspective needs to be considered to account for the reduction in indirect emissions due to improved animal health (e.g. changes in feed consumption, use of pastures, use of energy).
• The capacity of governments and partners should be enhanced in calculating emissions and accounting for impact throughout the value chain.
1. In general, the impact of improvements in animal health are not currently
included in national GHG inventories and NDCs
2. Tier 2 and higher methodologies are necessary to estimate GHG emissions
reductions from improved animal health
3. A data collection and maintenance system needs to be established that
includes stakeholders right across the sector
4. A life cycle assessment (LCA) perspective needs to be considered to account
for the reduction in indirect emissions due to improved animal health (e.g.
changes in feed consumption, use of pastures, use of energy) applying a
5. The capacity of governments and partners needs to be enhanced in
calculating emissions with Tier 2 methodology and accounting for impact
throughout the value chain
6. Institutional arrangements need to be inclusive of all actors in the sector,
including research and academia as well as the private sector (industry).