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Findings unfairly place burden of mitigation on lower and middle-income nations

Dairy Cattle

MINNEAPOLIS—A new report published today by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the industry group Global Dairy Platform (GDP) largely ignores the role of global dairy corporations in driving up greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and, instead, places the burden of emissions reductions on poor farmers in the Global South, said the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

"By letting the big dairy companies off the hook, the FAO actually accepts the large-scale expansion in production the industry has planned," said Shefali Sharma, Director of IATP Europe. "The IPCC gives us 12 years to get on a path that will limit global warming below 1.5°C. The path described in the new report will, instead, lead to far greater global emissions from the dairy sector."

The new FAO report uses its own GLEAM methodology to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions intensity (the amount of emissions per kilogram of dairy) of the industry. The report applauds the dairy industry for reducing its emissions intensity by 11 percent from 2005-2015, but those reductions are outweighed by the 30 percent increase in overall production. This expansion has largely been through new mega-dairies, which often cause greater environmental damage, at the expense of small to mid-sized dairy farmers. 

IATP and GRAIN used the same FAO GLEAM methodology in the 2018 report Emissions Impossible to calculate corporation-specific emission totals and found that global dairy giants like Fonterra, Danone and Dairy Farmers of America are already major GHG emitters and are planning massive production expansion. Emissions Impossible shows how a focus on emissions intensity misses the larger picture, letting meat and dairy corporations off the hook for reducing overall emissions.

The Global Dairy Platform was founded by four of the largest dairy companies in the world (Dairy Farmers of America, Fonterra, Royal Friesland Campina and Arla) in 2006, after the FAO released its first assessment of the livestock sector's climate footprint. In 2013, GDP created the Dairy Sustainability Framework, whose intention is to meet the UN sustainable development goals.

The new FAO/GDP report finds that the highest potential for emissions intensity reductions now lies in low to middle-income countries, since industrialized nations are already producing dairy products at much lower emissions intensities.

"To say that emissions reductions will now come from small-scale farmers that produce little and contribute even less to the climate crisis is unacceptable from both an ecological and social perspective," said Sharma. "The European Union, United States and New Zealand account for 46 percent of all global dairy production. We need to focus on the global dairy giants headquartered in these regions that are responsible for proliferating a flawed model of mass production and consumption."

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