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U-Turn By FAO On Cattle GHGs Must be Hammered Home

28 April 2010

UK - The National Beef Association has called for a fundamental policy assessment by world, EU and UK leaders on the influence of grazing and ruminant livestock production on climate change following a new, corrective, report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on cattle farming and green house gas (GHG) emissions.

Except in desert conditions, pasture sequesters far more carbon than is released by the ruminants grazing it. Even if one excludes that huge amount of capture and storage of carbon and methane, and concentrates only on cattle themselves, the FAO now states that dairy cattle are responsible for only 2.7 per cent of global GHG emissions - which contrasts wildly with its influential, but flawed, report published in 2006 which claimed that the livestock sector was a major cause of climate change because it was the source of 18 per cent of global GHG output.

The new FAO study covers all GHG emissions from dairy cattle including milk processing, packaging, and milk transport. It also says that the revised cattle figure rises to only four per cent if emissions related to beef eaten from dairy animals is included.

“The revised report was produced after longstanding cattle sector complaints that the 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, was unsound because it claimed cattle and pigs were the source of more environmental harm than the entire global transport system – including cars, planes, trains and ships,” explained NBA chairman, Christopher Thomas-Everard.

“However the previous claim that cattle based GHG’s did more damage than the world’s transport system is still embedded in the thinking of climate change policy makers and anti-meat campaigners, so it will take time, and effort, to eradicate this fundamental misconception.”

In March a senior FAO spokesman accepted that the original report was mistaken because in 2006 it had factored in GHG emissions at all stages of the livestock production process – but had failed to do the same with transport.

It has since emerged that transportation in the United States accounts for 26 per cent of its GHGs whereas cattle and pig farming, much of it intensive, accounts for just three per cent.

“The content of the revised report is good news, but much work must still be done to eliminate the misguided thinking that has sprung from the FAO’s original, error strewn, anti-livestock, conclusions,” said Mr Thomas-Everard.

The NBA would like MPs, and the public, to read the other FAO release entitled “Fighting climate change with grasslands – Vast potential seen in pastures” dated January 2010 . To quote this FAO paper “Grasslands have vast untapped potential to mitigate climate change by absorbing and storing CO2. Pastures and rangelands represent a carbon sink that could be greater than forests if properly managed.”

“Covering some 30 per cent of the earth’s ice-free land surface and accounting for 70 per cent of its agricultural land, the world’s 3.4 billion ha of grasslands can also play a major role in supporting the adaptation and reducing the vulnerability to climate change of over one billion people who depend on livestock for a living. Restoring organic matter to grassland soils…..can therefore help sequester large amounts of carbon – up to 1 billion tonnes a year according to some estimates”.

TheCattleSite News Desk


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