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Abstract

The red meat sector makes an important contribution to Australia’s economy, but is also a contributor to national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2005 (the baseline year for the Paris Agreement), emissions from the Australian red meat industry were 129.3 Mt CO2e; 21% of national emissions. The main sources of emissions were CO2 from forest land converted to grassland, and enteric methane from grazing beef cattle. Between 2005 and 2016, emissions attributed to the red meat sector decreased by 58% to 54.8 Mt CO2e and 10% of national emissions. This large reduction was primarily due to decreased land clearing for grazing, but there has also been a modest increase in the efficiency of red meat production. Further reductions in GHG emissions from the red meat industry are possible through continued improvements in land management and new options to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock. As the custodians of almost half of Australian land, there are also opportunities for grazing livestock industries to be leaders in carbon sequestration. While possible, mitigation and sequestration activities come at a cost, and require investment and policy support from private and government bodies. This needs to be supported by a willingness of consumers, both in Australia and export markets, to pay a higher price for low-carbon products. This case study gives an update to our 2019 paper on carbon neutral pathways, and highlights some of the lessons from Australia that can be applied to developing countries.

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