‘Pathways to Dairy Net Zero’ initiative to raise climate ambition for the dairy sector

New research is being conducted to identify where positive change is possible across all types of dairy systems and regions
‘Pathways to Dairy Net Zero’ initiative to raise climate ambition for the dairy sector
Photo - Daniel Albany from Pixabay
  • Global Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative is being created to accelerate climate change action throughout the dairy sector

  • The entire international dairy supply chain, which produces nutritious foods for six billion people and provides livelihoods for one billion people worldwide, is called on to increase their climate actions and join this movement.

A first-of-its-kind Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative is being developed to accelerate climate change action throughout the global dairy sector. Announced recently at the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Pre-Summit, the climate effort will be unlike any other in agriculture in terms of size, breadth, and scope.

“The global dairy sector is creating this ground-breaking initiative to help speed climate action already underway while continuing to provide livelihoods for a billion people and important nutrition for six billion people,” said Donald Moore, executive director at the Global Dairy Platform.

A multi-stakeholder group of organizations, including the global dairy sector and representatives from the scientific and research communities, are working together to develop methodologies, tools and pathways that work for every dairy system. Pathways to Dairy Net Zero will officially launch during the UN Food Systems Summit in September and generate commitments at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November.

New research to guide the initiative

Research is underway to identify where positive climate change action is possible across all dairy production systems and regions worldwide. The study is being conducted by the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Scotland’s Rural College and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Preliminary findings include:

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2010, positive change is possible across all dairy systems and regions. Although there is a wide variety of production systems globally, there are opportunities for all to reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) intensity.

  • A study by FAO in 2019 mentioned collaboration is needed to reduce dairy emissions. Many climate, poverty, and malnutrition challenges can be addressed by adopting best practices in similar dairy systems.

  • UN Environment Programme 2021 states, reducing methane may be key to fast results. Methane, a primary GHG produced by ruminant livestock, is short-lived. As a result, more reductions in methane would have a more immediate effect on warming.

  • Dairy already has the means to reduce a significant proportion of emissions. Initial evidence suggests emissions can be reduced up to 40% in some systems by improving productivity and resource use efficiency.

  • Defining terminologies and targets will focus efforts to achieve the best results. As indicated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, dairy’s carbon dioxide emissions need to strive to Net Zero, but its methane reduction can range from 24-47%, and its nitrous oxide reduction can be 26%

​“Our initial analysis suggests that wider use of existing GHG mitigation technologies will make an important impact in reducing dairy emissions in the short term, while the development of innovations takes place,” said Hayden Montgomery, Special Representative of GRA. “This initiative may ultimately act as a blueprint for other livestock sectors,” he added.

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