Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Livestock Industry

Energy and Climate Change written question – answered on 26th November 2008.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy PPS (Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State), Department for International Development

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer of 13 November 2008, Official Report, column 1333W, on meat and dairy consumption, what the timescale is for the work being undertaken to establish the extent to which all points in the meat production chain contribute to greenhouse gas emissions; what steps he intends to take once that work is completed; and what assessment he has made of the accuracy of the UN's estimate that 18 per cent. of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to animal production.

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Farming and the Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Emissions from agriculture and livestock production and consumption are very complex and our aim is to continue to improve our knowledge over time.

Our work to tackle emissions from meat production includes a workstream on agriculture and climate change which aims to enable the agriculture, forestry and land management sector (which includes livestock farming) to fulfil its potential in contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation. As part of this we are looking to establish a cost-effective package of policy measures to help reduce emissions. This will inform the sector's contribution to meeting the UK's carbon budgets under the Climate Change Bill. This work is supported by a strong programme of research (around £5 million per year), which includes studies on ruminant nutrition regimes to reduce methane and nitrogen emissions from livestock, research to improve the productivity of dairy cattle and a study to assess the level and type of farming activity in the livestock sector that UK resources can sustain in order to reach UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ammonia targets.

The Government have made no official assessment of the 18 per cent. global estimate from the Food and Agricultural Organisation report Livestock's Long Shadow. We note however that it includes life-cycle emissions associated with livestock production and consumption. These emissions include not only emissions from enteric fermentation and agricultural waste disposal, but also emissions associated with feed production and from deforestation related to livestock production. The uncertainties with estimates of this type are significant, but the order of magnitude of the emission estimates is likely to be correct.

The most recent available GHG Inventory for the UK shows that direct emissions from livestock were 3.1 per cent. of total emissions in 2006.

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