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Lamb - climate neutral

Research published in 2020 by the CSIRO showed that Australia's sheep meat sector, despite having increased production in the preceeding 30 years, was ‘climate neutral’. Meaning that it didn't contribute to further climate change.

The research used annual Australian greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2017 to measure the ‘radiative forcing’ footprint of the Australian sheep meat industry. Radiative forcing is the influence a given climatic factor has on the amount of downward-directed radiant energy impinging upon Earth’s surface. The goal of limiting mean global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, depends upon urgent action to stabilise radiative forcing.

What does the research say about Australian lamb and climate change?

The research shows that the radiative forcing footprint of Australia’s sheep meat sector had plateaued over the past 30 years and reached the point of a net zero increase in 2020, a status that could be described as ‘climate neutral’.

In fact, the climate impact of the sheep meat industry is trending downwards due to the decrease in the sector’s methane emissions, from 371 kt in 1990 to 290 kt in 2017.

What’s the difference between ‘climate neutral’ and ‘carbon neutral’?

In the context of the CSIRO research, ‘climate neutral’ is defined as net zero addition to radiative forcing. In other words, emissions from a climate neutral sector do not contribute to further global temperature rises.

‘Carbon neutral’ means the carbon footprint of a product is zero (or it has been offset). This can be achieved by balancing emissions, measured as Carbon Dioxide equivalents, with their removal from the atmosphere. In Australia, some livestock producers are carbon neutral, using soil or trees to store carbon or investing in carbon offsets to achieve neutrality.