Friday, December 11, 2009

Livestock's contribution to climate change: what can be done?

Every morning and evening I encounter activitists outside of the COP venue in Copenhagen who encourage me to save the planet by stopping my consumption of meat and dairy products. Today I encountered those messages again at a side event hosted by Noble Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai. Research conducted by the FAO in 2006 shows that some 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock production and consumption of livestock products, which is more than from the transport sector as a whole. Consumption of livestock products increase disproportionately with increases in income, so economic progress further increases emissions from livestock. See a summary at:

Yet there is virtually no mention of livestock in the Kyoto Protocol or in documents now being drafted for a possible Copenhagen Agreement to succeed it. Why?

So far no one has presented a convincing plan of what could be done to reduce livestock emissions at the global scale. Nonetheless, there are promising initiatives at the local scale. Some European countries have reduced emissions from livestock due to regulations put in place to protect water sources. In Alberta, there are initiatives like Spring Creek Ranch to generate energy from animal waste. (See At the University of Alberta, there are promising initiatives to reduce GHG emissions per unit of livestock product.

Such initiatives must continue and be intensified. Carbon taxes on meat consumption may be the next step.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting point- so often we hear about carbon emissions from transportation, but this is the first I have heard of carbon emissions from livestock. I hope that a convincing plan to reduce livestock emissions on a global scale can be drawn up. Carbon taxes on meat consumption may be one solution, but the promotion of meat alternatives and a new normative landscape regarding diet and nutrition might also be a useful tactic.