Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

The Australian red meat industry has stated that it does not have to meet its self-imposed goal of reaching net zero emissions.
Climate Environment World News

The Australian red meat industry has stated that it does not have to meet its self-imposed goal of reaching net zero emissions.

The Meat and Livestock Australia organization stated that their goal of reaching net zero emissions in the red meat sector by 2030 may not necessarily be mandatory to achieve.

In 2017, the industry organization set a target and has been advocating to regulators and consumers. They have already allocated $180 million towards research and development aimed at reducing emissions from animal production to reach net zero.

In 2022, a report by CSIRO, commissioned by MLA, revealed that the industry emitted nearly 66% less greenhouse gases in 2020 compared to the levels recorded in 2005.

However, the report stated that the decrease in land clearing and increase in forest regrowth, as measured by Australia’s national carbon accounting system, are the main factors contributing to the reported reductions. The University of Queensland conducted an analysis which suggests that the NCAS may be significantly underestimating land clearing rates.

In the state of Queensland, over 40% of the total population of cattle can be found. According to the 2020-21 study on land cover and trees, there were significantly higher levels of deforestation compared to the data from NCAS. It was determined that approximately 89% of the land clearing was a result of livestock activities.

  • Subscribe to receive the biweekly Rural Network email newsletter from Guardian Australia.

Margaret Jewell, the environmental sustainability manager for MLA, expressed that the 2030 goal is motivating the industry to assess and decrease their environmental footprint.

Jewell stated that the target is crucial because it brings the industry together to strive for ongoing advancements in sustainability and encourages investment.

Jewell stated that MLA is confident in the accuracy of the baseline data, however, she also mentioned that there may be a significant margin of error due to the complexity of conducting an industry analysis.

She stated that the macro dataset is allowing us to monitor the biophysical advancements of our industry in reaching a goal. We have been very open about our approach to this.

The report from CSIRO also mentioned that there was a 6.4% decrease in emissions in 2020 compared to the previous year, but this was primarily due to a decrease in livestock population. It stated that if there is an increase in livestock, emissions would also increase.

The total number of livestock in the country, which excludes about 2 million dairy cows from the red meat industry’s emissions, was 24.6 million in 2020. Three years later, in 2023, it had increased to 28.7 million.

Efforts to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector have primarily centered on finding methods to decrease the amount of methane released through belching in cattle, as this is the main contributor to emissions in this industry.

This involves providing cows with additives derived from seaweed. However, a lengthy trial in the commercial sector did not achieve the expected reduction in methane and resulted in the cows consuming less food.

Jewell stated that the research was still in its early stages and has yielded somewhat inconsistent outcomes.

She stated that the industry requires technology that is beneficial to adopt, regardless of its impact on reducing methane, because it offers a productivity advantage.

Ignore the promotion for the newsletter.

The economic feasibility of these [food additives] indicates that they are unlikely to be widely embraced by the industry.

According to Professor Mark Howden, director of the Australian National University’s Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, achieving a net zero target in the sector is essentially unfeasible.

Howden stated that it is widely recognized that red meat has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions per serving.

I believe the industry viewed this as a significant danger to their future. A couple of years ago, everyone was eagerly joining the net zero trend without fully considering its implications.

CSIRO discovered that the industry would not be able to achieve its goal of net zero, so they suggested implementing a “climate-neutral” target that focuses on reducing methane emissions instead of completely eliminating them.

Revised data on emissions from the red meat industry is anticipated to be released in April.

Would you like to share additional information? Please send an email to [email protected].

  • Join the Rural Network email list for updates and information

  • Become a member of the Rural Network Facebook group and join our community.

Source: theguardian.com