Climate positive action continues to move with Pathways to Net Zero initiative

The Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF) is working with other organisations to help the 10 highest methane emitters globally reduce their carbon footprint, according to its director Brian Lindsay, who spoke in a recent interview with Dairy Industries International editorial assistant Kathryn Brand about it, along with Donald Moore, DSF chairman and Global Dairy Platform executive director.

DSF, as an initiative, was launched in 2013, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) across the global dairy sector. Alongside GHGs, the DSF has ten other criteria that it is working to positively impact, including biodiversity, working conditions, rural economies, and water availability and quality.

The decisions made on what criteria each individual business decides to prioritise is something they make themselves in consultation with their stakeholders, customers and suppliers, looking at local policies and interests. “It’s about the organisation saying we’re doing this because we’ve seen how important this is to our wide range of stakeholders, and to us as a business,” explained Lindsay. “If it’s something they’ve identified, they will own it. And they’re more likely to have success with an improvement programme.”

This individualisation of positive climate efforts are essential in order to secure long term best practice and progress, as the global dairy systems are so diverse in size, geography, turnover and strategy. Pathways to Net Zero is a scheme set up in 2021 as a collaboration with DSF, Global Dairy Platform, International Dairy Federation, International Livestock Research Institute, SAI Platform, and the IFCN to develop sustainability pathways for all dairy systems. Every year, the partaking dairy companies feedback their progress and number one priorities, which for some time has overwhelmingly been GHGs, with animal care and biodiversity as close followers, Donald Moore, DSF chairman and GDP executive director, pointed out.

While there may be a variety of priorities at play, they need to be looked at holistically to mitigate unintended consequences in other areas. “We have got to be careful that we don’t trade off one area of environmental sustainability, such as GHGs, against something else like biodiversity or soil and water quality,” Moore said, which is why measuring and feeding back information into a wider collaboration is essential.

Different priorities and programmes need to be in place for different economies. Not only due to the variance in addressed needs, but also because of the variance on environmental impact. Moore explained that 80% of the emissions from the dairy sector are coming from emerging dairy economies, not from the developed dairy market, which includes regions such as North America, Europe and Oceania. Therefore, it is the emerging markets that need to be addressed first as a priority. Measurements have shown that countries with low yielding dairies are significantly higher emitting than those with high milk yields, which led to the identification of different mitigation options that are likely to result in the best outcomes for those systems. This includes feed quality, animal health and welfare and herd structure, which can enable in the biggest emission reductions for the dairies within that bracket, therefore the mitigation options can be modelled accordingly to the data provided.

Out of the ten highest emitting emerging dairy economies, nine have already signed on to be early adopters of this programme. In Africa, it will be operating in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda; the Americas, in Uruguay, Costa Rica and Colombia; and in Asia, with Pakistan, Vietnam and discussions still in progress with India. The first target was to work on East Africa, alongside its accredited bodies IFAD and FAO, which is a scheme currently being executed, and they have recently moved onto work in Latin America with an accredited body still to be confirmed.

The announcement that a programme was being put together for Latin America was made at COP27, at which there was a lot of attention and focus on agriculture, for the first time at a climate change summit, Moore said. While it has previously been a sidebar, it is expected to continue receiving due attention at COP28 in Dubai this year, with livestock on the main agenda. As focus grows on the dairy and agriculture sector, dairies are being held to account and climate positive efforts are being increasingly recognised and supported.

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