Meat & Livestock News

Significant Reduction in GHG Emissions in the Australian Red Meat Industry

TL;DR: The Australian red meat industry has cut its GHG emissions by 78% since 2005, driven by improved land use and regrowth. The sector continues to innovate towards carbon neutrality by 2030, supported by significant investments in sustainability research and practices.

Impressive Decline Since 2005

Recent research conducted by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency, has demonstrated a remarkable 78% decrease in net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the Australian red meat industry since 2005. This notable decline is detailed in a report using data from the 2021 Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Key Factors Influencing Reduction

The significant decrease in emissions primarily stems from changes in land use within the sector. According to Julia Waite, the Project Manager for MLA’s Carbon Neutral 2030 (CN30) initiative, the reduction is largely due to decreased rates of land clearing and increased regrowth, enhancing the carbon stored on lands used for livestock management.

Impact of Climate Conditions

The years 2020 and 2021 witnessed a crucial reduction in land use emissions, aided by high rainfall, 9% above the historical average, and favourable growth conditions during the La-Niña phase. This period’s results starkly contrast with the challenges posed by drought and bushfires in the preceding years. Waite noted that such variability in the Australian climate suggests that sequestration volumes might decrease during drier conditions, such as those typical of El Niño periods.

Ongoing Efforts and Future Outlook

Further details on the industry’s efforts towards emission reduction will be included in the upcoming Australian Beef Sustainability Framework Annual Update, set to be unveiled at Beef Australia in Rockhampton. This annual report leverages the latest scientific data and methods now incorporated into the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory to provide an accurate picture of historical emissions and ongoing improvements.

Continued Commitment to Environmental Goals

The industry’s strategies to reduce GHG emissions are comprehensive, focusing on increasing efficiency in production and resource use, adopting renewable energy, and improving manure management. Novel approaches, such as developing low methane pastures and employing genetic indexing, are expected to play a crucial role in the latter part of the decade, provided they prove commercially viable and beneficial for the overall farm business.

Investment in Sustainability

Since 2017, Meat and Livestock Australia has invested $152 million in research, development, and extension activities aimed at reducing the GHG footprint of the red meat supply chain. The industry is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, defined as net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with global environmental targets and improving sustainability in agricultural practices.