Climate change and the global dairy cattle sector

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The challenge for policy-makers – and for the dairy sector – is how to reduce environmental impacts while continuing to meet society’s needs. Dairy products are a rich source of essential nutrients that contributes to a healthy and nutritious diet. With demand for high-quality animal sourced protein increasing globally, the dairy sector is well placed to contribute to global food security and poverty reduction through the supply of dairy products. In so doing, it is essential that sector growth is sustainable in terms of the environment, public and animal health and welfare and in terms of development, poverty alleviation and social progress.

The world is already experiencing, for example, more frequent floods, storms and droughts, forest fires causing damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods. The dairy sector must contribute effectively to the global effort to avoid dangerous climate change, become more resilient and prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.

In order to limit temperature rise, the dairy sector must reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and work towards a low-carbon future. The good news is that there are many opportunities within the sector to limit climate change by reducing emissions. While there is some uncertainty about the size and timing of changes, it is certain that it is happening and acting now to protect our environment, economy and culture will always be worthwhile.

To consider how to deal with climate change, the dairy sector needs to have evidence at hand, presented in a clear and comprehensible way, so stakeholders can see how they can and must contribute.

This report is an attempt to understand the contribution of the dairy sector to global emissions between 2005 and 2015 as a first step towards addressing the challenge of climate change and defining a low-carbon pathway for the sector.

Image credit: FAO

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