‘Pathways to Dairy Net Zero’ Initiative to Raise Climate Ambition for the Global Dairy Sector

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A “Pathways to Dairy Net Zero” initiative is being developed to accelerate climate change action throughout the global dairy sector. The initiative was announced this week at the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Pre-Summit.

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 aims to 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 throughout the world. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Collaboration is needed to reduce dairy’s emissions. Many climate, poverty, and malnutrition challenges can be addressed through adoption of best practices in similar dairy systems.
  3. 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.
  4. Dairy already has the means to reduce a significant proportion of emissions.4 Initial evidence suggests emissions can be reduced up to 40% in some systems by improving productivity and resource use efficiency.
  5. 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%.

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