European Dairy Sector and Sustainable Development Goals

The European Dairy Association has released a ‘factsheet’ detailing how the European Dairy Sector is playing a role in fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The United Nations’ SDGs are part of a universal agenda, meant to bring the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. There are 17 goals with 169 targets, which seek to end poverty, improve the lives of all peoples and secure the planet for future generations through the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

The EDA said: “The European dairy sector will play a key role in fulfilling these goals, as it provides key nutritional, social and economic inputs. Moreover, as an emitter of greenhouse gases, it accepts its responsibilities and has continuously worked on greater sustainability through various international, as well as national, initiatives.”

The biggest criticism of the animal dairy industry are its contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The EDA admitted this, but maintained it was making strides to reduce them.

Methane gas is used to generate heat, power and vehicular fuel, while in large-scale dairy operations, anaerobic digestions systems have even been known to produce enough energy to cover internal requirements and even feed back into the public energy grid.

The global dairy sector is a significant contributor to the global greenhouse gas emissions, with the entire sector contributing an average of 2.7%. The global average of carbon dioxide per kg of liquid milk is 2.4kg, yet it is significantly lower in Europe at 1.5kg. The European dairy sector has been particularly active in recent years and has lowered its climate impact through feed modifications, better manure management and especially through the reductions of dairy cow herds, which has been made possible through increased yields per cow.

The total average milk yield per cow was 5,484kg in 2000, whereas it increased to 6,906kg in 2016. This has allowed for a thinning of the herd and a subsequent reduced climate impact. Moreover, dairy producers can help reduce the greenhouse gas impact through efficient farm management which promotes soil carbon sequestration. This has the potential of sequestering more than 10% of the anthropogenic emissions.

Read the full factsheet here.

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