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Marginal costs of abating greenhouse gases in the global ruminant livestock sector


  • B. Henderson

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization
    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Queensland Bioscience Precinct)

  • A. Falcucci

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

  • A. Mottet

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

  • L. Early

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

  • B. Werner

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

  • H. Steinfeld

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

  • P. Gerber

    () (UN Food and Agriculture Organization
    Wageningen University)


Abstract Livestock [inclusive of ruminant species, namely cattle (Bos Taurus and Bos indicus), sheep (Ovis aries), goats (Capra hircus), and buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis), and non-ruminant species, namely pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) and chickens (Gallus domesticus)] are both affected by climate change and contribute as much as 14.5 % of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which is from ruminant animals (Gerber et al. 2013). This study aims to estimate the marginal costs of reducing GHG emissions for a selection of practices in the ruminant livestock sector (inclusive of the major ruminant species—cattle, sheep, and goats) globally. It advances on previous assessments by calculating marginal costs rather than commonly reported average costs of abatement and can thus provide insights about abatement responses at different carbon prices. We selected the most promising abatement options based on their effectiveness and feasibility. Improved grazing management and legume sowing are the main practices assessed in grazing systems. The urea (CO(NH2)2) treatment of crop straws is the main practice applied in mixed crop–livestock systems, while the feeding of dietary lipids and nitrates are confined to more intensive production systems. These practices were estimated to reduce emissions by up to 379 metric megatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions per year (MtCO2-eq yr−1). Two thirds of this reduction was estimated to be possible at a carbon price of 20 US dollars per metric ton of CO2 equivalent emissions ($20 tCO2-eq−1). This study also provides strategic guidance as to where abatement efforts could be most cost effectively targeted. For example, improved grazing management was particularly cost effective in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, while legume sowing appeared to work best in Western Europe and Latin America.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Henderson & A. Falcucci & A. Mottet & L. Early & B. Werner & H. Steinfeld & P. Gerber, 2017. "Marginal costs of abating greenhouse gases in the global ruminant livestock sector," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 199-224, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:masfgc:v:22:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11027-015-9673-9
    DOI: 10.1007/s11027-015-9673-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott & Martin, William J. & Liu, Yu, 2007. "Distortions to Agricultural Incentives in China," Agricultural Distortions Working Paper Series 48478, World Bank.
    6. Dominic Moran & Michael Macleod & Eileen Wall & Vera Eory & Alistair McVittie & Andrew Barnes & Robert Rees & Cairistiona F. E. Topp & Andrew Moxey, 2011. "Marginal Abatement Cost Curves for UK Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(1), pages 93-118, February.
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    1. repec:spr:masfgc:v:23:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s11027-017-9743-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:spr:masfgc:v:24:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s11027-018-9801-4 is not listed on IDEAS


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