There's a new guide in town for measuring the carbon footprint of the international dairy industry. Last year the International Dairy Federation (IDF) published "A Common Carbon Footprint Approach for Dairy: The IDF Guide to Standard Lifecycle Assessment Methodology for the Dairy Sector" making it the first coordinated global approach in the agricultural world to address climate change.
The publication comes at a time when the dairy sector is being challenged to quantify and reduce its carbon footprint, said Sophie Bertrand, environmental technical director, French Livestock Institute and the guide's action team leader. Currently, each dairy producer is calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using his or her own methodology. "But they give a wide range of results, and you can’t identify whether the difference in the results is due to a difference in the production system or a difference in the method of calculation," Bertrand said.
With the guide, stakeholders in the worldwide dairy sector (about 40 countries) will be able to:
- Measure and monitor the total GHG of their operations using a coherent, consistent methodology based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). LCA assesses each impact associated with all the stages of a process: from raw materials to the grave – or in this case, from the cow to the factory gate.
- Facilitate comparisons among operations on a global scale
- Quantify success in reducing carbon footprint
The guide was developed over a year with input from scientists and key players in the industry such as the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Global Dairy Platform and Sustainable Agriculture Initiative. It currently covers milk production from cattle.
"The IDF recommends the guide to all national dairy organizations around the world, and it will be the task of each to develop its use at their national level," Bertrand said. "The final goal is not to calculate results. It's to identify hot spots and to decide which action we should take to start to reduce impact." Download the guide at: www.IDF-LCA-guide.org.
Bertrand said the guide’s next steps are to include other environmental impacts beyond GHG emissions, such as water, biodiversity and social and economic factors.