Leaders discuss climate friendly livestock production
GREENFIELD, Ind. (BUSINESS WIRE) — Global leaders from one of the world’s largest industries converged the week of Sept. 11 at the Sustainable Solutions for Zero Hunger by 2030: A Vision for Animal Agriculture Forum to explore solutions to combat climate change while keeping the world nourished. Held ahead of the United Nation’s Food Systems Summit, more than 600 global business leaders, policymakers and key opinion leaders from a dozen countries convened to accelerate existing efforts moving livestock production toward climate-neutrality.
The Issues: Hunger and Climate Change
The day highlighted the urgent, time-sensitive issues of hunger and climate change. According to the United Nations, the world has just nine years left to curb emissions or see irreversible damage to the planet. Meanwhile, a full 30% of the world’s population lacked year-round access to adequate nutrition in 2020, leading to problems ranging from hunger to obesity to malnutrition.
Right now, an estimated 811 million people globally face hunger and the world’s population is estimated to grow by an additional two billion in the coming decades, increasing protein demand even more. That demand must be met in an environmentally sensitive way to avoid additional strain on the environment. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report detailed a grim future if greenhouse gases remain unchecked for another few years.
“This is a level of urgency we haven’t faced before, and it’s a level of urgency that intersects social, economic and environmental challenges,” Jeff Simmons said, president and CEO at Elanco. “We’re seeing the interconnection between calories and climate, and how meat, milk, fish and eggs play an absolutely critical role to achieve zero hunger and climate neutrality. Constituents from across the globe gathered to discuss potential ways to collaborate and catalyze change, making this the decade of opportunity for animal agriculture, as we aim to both feed the world and cool the climate.”
Participation from key government officials rounded out the day’s discussion. “I understand the role and place of animal protein,” Dr. Agnes Kalibata said, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit. “The UN Food Systems Summit next week recognizes that we need to come through on our Sustainable Development Goals, and this industry has the ability to do that. Animals may be part of the problem, but there are also ways that they can be part of the solution.”
The livestock producers are the only industry segment that sits at the center of both climate and calories. Animal protein – meat, milk, fish and eggs – represents 18 percent of the calories consumed globally, and 40 percent of protein intake.
With decisive action, animals can be a critical, fast-moving solution to positively impact global climate warming through the reduction of methane.
Both methane and carbon dioxide, CO2, are greenhouse gases contributing to the rapid pace of global warming. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for upwards of 1,000 years while methane remains for roughly 12 years. By significantly reducing methane emissions by just a third, achieving climate-neutral meat and milk, the overall rate of warming can slow, providing valuable time to address the more complex, long-term impacts of CO2.
Business leaders from across the animal protein supply chain met to discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities to accelerate action towards zero hunger and climate neutrality. Discussion focused on the four key areas where progress is needed to help enable the Sustainable Development Goal outcomes by 2030: measurement, innovation, market creation, and communication. Companies discussed their contributions and commitments as well as opportunities to identify a larger common understanding on the way to achieve hunger and climate goals.
“We’re talking about the success of the future of humanity and planet Earth. That’s an important topic and it has a huge intersection to livestock agriculture,” Sara Place said, Ph.D. and Chief Sustainability Officer at Elanco. “We have a level of dedication to solving this issue. And I’m bullish on our ability to solve this, we just have to invest in it.”
Ahead of the upcoming U.N. Food Systems Summit and Climate Change Conference, animal protein industry leaders requested the opportunity to work in partnership with the U.N., elected officials, experts and other key stakeholders to identify and deliver critical solutions in nutrition and climate change that also unlock economic opportunity.
“I believe in the next five to seven years we will be able to reduce the emissions associated with livestock by as much as 70 percent through innovations across the production process,” Mike McCloskey said, co-founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers. “These range from methods to reduce emissions associated with forage and grain production to genetic selection for improved feed efficiency or for animals that naturally emit less methane and finally to feed ingredients that improve feed digestibility or reduce enteric methane production. These are opportunities for the world, whether you have one cow or 1,000 cows.”
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