Greenhouse gas mitigation potentials in the livestock sector

The global livestock sector supports about 1.3 billion producers and retailers, and contributes 40–50% of agricultural GDP. We estimated that between 1995 and 2005, the livestock sector was responsible for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of 5.6–7.5 GtCO2e yr–1. Livestock accounts for up to half of the technical mitigation potential of the agriculture, forestry and land-use sectors, through management options that sustainably intensify livestock production, promote carbon sequestration in rangelands and reduce emissions from manures, and through reductions in the demand for livestock products.

The economic potential of the man­agement alternatives in livestock production to mitigate GHG emissions is less than 10% of what is technically possible because of adoption constraints, costs and numerous trade-offs. The mitigation potential of reductions in the consumption of livestock products is large, but their economic potential is unknown at present.

More research and investment are needed to increase the affordability and adoption of mitigation prac­tices, to moderate consumption of livestock products where appropriate, and to avoid negative impacts on livelihoods, eco­nomic activities and the environment.


Mario Herrero, Benjamin Henderson, Petr Havlík, Philip K. Thornton, Richard T. Conant, Pete Smith, Stefan Wirsenius, Alexander N. Hristov, Pierre Gerber, Margaret Gill, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Hugo Valin, Tara Garnett, Elke Stehfest


Publication title
Greenhouse gas mitigation potentials in the livestock sector
Publication date
21 March 2016
Publication type
Nature Climate Change
Product number