Reduced emissions

Although dairy manufacturers are successfully reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, 95% of the industry’s emissions are produced on farm. Industry programs have targeted power consumption in the dairy.

Dairy’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The Australian dairy industry recognises it has an important role to play in saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). We acknowledge the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment of holding the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C. We are also following closely the adoption of science-based reduction targets to 2030 by global food and beverage companies.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector accounted for about 18.3% of Australia’s GHG emissions in 2013.  The dairy industry accounts for 10% of these emissions, or 2% of total national emissions.

Dairy manufacturing in Australia is responsible for around 5% of the emissions from Dairy overall.  The majority of these manufacturing emissions are carbon dioxide produced as a result of energy consumption. We acknowledge that GHG emissions arising from on farm activities are by far the most significant source of emissions in our sector. However, accurately measuring and accounting for those emissions on a regular basis is a challenge. Our approach to date has been to focus our target setting and reporting on emissions arising from manufacturing, while continuing to fund projects and programs which have proven to reduce emissions arising from farming.

In 2010/11, Dairy Manufacturing Sustainability Council (DMSC) members reported a GHG intensity of 178.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per megalitre of milk processed (t CO2 -e/ML). DMSC’s 2015/16 reporting shows manufacturers have reduced this number to 140 tonnes — a 21.7% reduction over five years and an 8.2% reduction compared to 2014/15.

The amount of energy used in a dairy manufacturing plant depends on the product produced.  The production of milk powder requires more energy (to evaporate water) compared with liquid milk production.  Those plants that produce milk powders are therefore more likely to have higher energy consumption, although they are also capable of recovering much more water for re-use as a consequence.

Improvements in energy efficiency and reduction of GHG emissions are becoming key issues for dairy manufacturers.  A number of national and state programs and related initiatives are also aimed at improving energy efficiency and dairy manufacturers are increasingly embracing the benefits from energy savings and the associated reduction in emissions.

On-farm emissions come from a range of sources, but are primarily made up of enteric (intestinal) methane and nitrous oxide emissions from dairy pastures.   Reducing GHG gas emissions from cows and pastures is linked to many aspects of farming practice including cow productivity, feed quality, fertility and nutrient management (refer Target 8).

Sustainable Development Goals

The opportunity exists to engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as national greenhouse gas reduction commitments. The outcomes of the Paris Climate Change Conference (21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21), and the subsequent targets agreed by the Australian government, will also inform the evolution of the Framework. Our next challenge is to explore our options to adapt and minimise the impacts of extreme weather patterns due to climate variability; for manufacturers as well as on the more obvious farm-based consequences. Potentially relevant UN Goals include:

2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.