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MacLoran Farm

Global agrifood roadmap recognises critical role of livestock production

The latest United Nations Climate Change conference – COP28 in Dubai – wound up today (12 December). Depending on what media you follow, the annual Conference of the Parties is described as everything from setting the policies that will save humanity to big top circus entertainment. Regardless of your perspective, COPs are the world’s only multilateral decision-making forum on climate change with almost complete membership of every country in the world, so they are important for keeping the global climate response on track.

A record 84,000 delegates registered to attend COP28, and while the biggest issue at this year’s conference appears to have been the failed attempt to forge an historic deal to phase out fossil fuels, an important development for livestock producers was the release of a global agrifood roadmap, which aims to eradicate global hunger and nutrition while transforming agrifood systems.

This roadmap is the first of three. Livestock is one of the 10 domains and has 9 of the 120 recommended actions across all domains. The series will conclude in 2025 when individual ‘Country Action Plans’ will be released at COP30 in Brazil.

The roadmap recognises that livestock are essential to feeding the world, have a crucial economic role contributing to the livelihoods of about 1.7 billion poor people and play a vital role in environmental functions such as maintaining soil carbon content and fertility.

It also highlights that the livestock sector directly contributes to 26 per cent of agrifood system emissions and sets milestones for methane emissions in 2030 to be 25 per cent lower than 2020, and for total factor productivity to have grown by 1.7 per cent per year globally by 2050.

Our industry has made solid progress in response to this challenge. Moving forward we will also need national and state contextualised policy setting, and more informed media.

Government policies must be more regionally relevant and must provide market driven solutions. For our part, industry needs to be more proactive in setting certain targets and the quantitative, objective and verifiable metrics for any new standards. In the absence of having our own definitions and standards, international alternatives are adopted which can be unsuitable and result in perverse and costly outcomes, as has been the case with EU deforestation definitions.

Domestic contextualised messaging also matters. For example, the ABC story following the roadmap’s release was headlined: “Cut red meat to help reduce climate emissions, UN Food and Agriculture Organization says at COP28”. This is not what the roadmap is about. It focuses on the imperative to prioritise production efficiency while reducing resource usage per unit of consumable products – essentially the aim of producing more with less emissions. The approach to realising this will be different for different countries.

Australia is suited to grazing livestock. Only 3% of Australia’s agricultural land is suited to cropping – an area about one third the size of Tasmania. Upcycling inedible plant material on land that cannot grow crops into one of the most nutrient dense and palatable human food sources, and into the world’s greatest natural fibre through livestock production is absolutely part of the solution to the world’s climate and nutritional challenges.

In 2022, 738.9 million people faced hunger, 2.4 billion were moderately or severely food insecure, and over 3.1 billion lacked access to healthy diets. Australia is at the forefront of regionally contextualised, globally sustainable livestock production, but we don’t articulate this fact very well.

By Travis Tobin

Published: 28 December 2023