A new research report released by CSIRO and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has shown that the Australian red meat and livestock industry has reduced its net greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent since 2005.
Using information primarily from the 2020 Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributed to the red meat industry were 51.25 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG in the year 2020.
This is a 6.4 per cent decrease compared to 2019 and a 65 per cent decrease compared to the baseline year of 2005. The red meat industry’s emissions represented 10.3 per cent of national total GHG emissions in 2020.
According to MLA’s managing director, Jason Strong, the reduction in red meat industry GHG emissions in 2020 was partly explained by reductions in livestock numbers following the years of drought leading into 2020.
“The number of livestock on the ground has an influence on industry’s overall emissions, and we know these numbers will fluctuate with seasonal and market conditions,” Mr Strong said.
“This highlights the importance of MLA’s investment in emissions reduction strategies to reduce enteric methane and other agricultural emissions along the value chain.
“Through an initiative called CN30 we are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, which is seeing us invest in innovation and technology that will help our industry to be carbon neutral while also maintaining productivity.
“The CN30 target is focused on achieving our goals through innovation, allowing us to maintain stock numbers while also delivering even greater environmental outcomes.
“We know that there will be variance year-to-year in industry emissions – but this report highlights that the overall trend is that the industry is decreasing its emissions.”
“Although it is important to note that reporting against the CN30 target accounts for ‘real’ biophysical change only attributed to the red meat sector and is unrelated to activities in the carbon market or with purchased offsets,” Mr Strong said.
The new research report examined the production of beef cattle, sheep for meat, and goats, as well as the domestic processing of these animals.
Emissions were attributed to the red meat industry based on animal numbers, feed intake, livestock processed, and resource use. It is part of the industry’s work in annually benchmarking its GHG footprint, which has been occurring since 2015.
The report highlighted areas for improvement such as including methods to estimate emissions that are currently excluded from the calculation. These include the transport of livestock and emissions associated with crop production for feed.
Mr Strong said that MLA had developed a roadmap for CN30 that outlined four key areas for investment: emissions avoidance; carbon storage; leadership building; and integrated management systems.
“As we move closer to 2030, MLA and the red meat industry are ready to further reduce emissions and support producers in building a stronger, more sustainable future,” Mr Strong said.
The full report can be found here.