The BBC is reporting that Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is reporting that "greenhouse gas emissions from the industry have fallen by almost 60% since 2005". This seems to be from the MLA State of the Industry Report 2019 which says:

a 57.6% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the beef, sheepmeat and goatmeat production sectors since the CN30 baseline year of 2005. The data was compiled by CSIRO from the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory and shows the red meat industry reduced GHG emissions from 129.3 million tonnes of C02 equivalent (Mt C02-e) in 2005 to 54.8 million Mt C02-e in 2016.

Looking at the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory they have a spreadsheet of emmissions by sector from 1990 to 2019, and the relevant numbers of Greenhouse gas emissions (kt CO2-e) for 2005 and 2016 are:

Sector 2005 2016 Change
3. Agriculture 85,957 77,869 9%
A. Enteric fermentation 64,251 55,979 13%
B. Manure management 7,644 7,186 6%
C. Rice cultivation 230 124 46%
D. Agricultural soils 11,515 11,617 -1%
F. Field burning of agricultural residues 353 300 15%
G. Liming 1,076 1,153 -7%
H. Urea application 887 1,510 -70%

I cannot see how you could get from these numbers to a 57.6% reduction. I think the main emission of red meat production is enteric methane, which accounts for 72-74% of all agricultural GHG. This has a drop of only 13%.

Is there any way to read these numbers to get a figure of 57.6% reduction?

1 Answer 1


The MLA report mentions CSIRO, which, per Wikipedia, stands for "The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [...]" and is "an Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research."

A bit of digging turned up this journal article, written in January 2019 by a group of CSIRO researchers: "Pathways to carbon-neutrality for the Australian red meat sector" (pdf).

The numbers are slightly different (emphasis added):

Baseline emissions from the red meat sector in 2005 were 124.1 Mt CO2e [...] The main sources of emissions were CO2 from forest land converted to grassland (71.8 M t CO2e) and enteric methane from grazing beef cattle (31.4 Mt CO2e). [...]

In 2015, emissions had decreased by 45% to 68.6 Mt CO2e [...] The decrease in emissions from the red meat sector was driven primarily by a decrease in CO2 emissions from deforestation on livestock farms, with emissions from land clearing reduced to 30.1 Mt CO2e.

So where does the 58% figure come from? In August 2019, Dianne Mayberry, the lead author, presented a conference paper titled: "Raising the steaks: reducing GHG emissions from red meat". This paper includes the exact numbers quoted in the MLA report in the abstract (emphasis added):

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.

The methodology used to develop the baseline is described in supplementary material (Appendix A) to the article, which is behind a paywall. The conference paper does not explain the change in numbers, however in the time period between the two (January to August 2019), the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory released two quarterly updates. Without digging in, I imagine that some of the numbers may have changed, affecting the analysis.

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