Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are significant - and growing, but 119 countries have indicated they intend to reduce emissions in the sector. But how will they measure emissions and mitigation?

Guidance for Emissions Reporting in the Livestock Sector

As countries take action to achieve their climate targets, many developing countries need to improve systems to track mitigation in the livestock sector
By Julianna White

In their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), 92 developing countries mentioned livestock-related emissions, and 48 of the 92 explicitly mentioned intentions to reduce emissions from livestock-related sources such as enteric fermentation, manure management and biogas, and grasslands and silvopastoral systems. But how do countries plan to document reduced emissions?

Countries must submit national emissions inventory reports, information on implementation and achievement of NDCs. Climate finance requires reliable estimates. Countries have monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to meet these requirements, but many such systems lack completeness, consistency, accuracy or transparency. No global, one-size-fits-all livestock MRV system is possible. Indeed, countries and projects have flexibility in how they shape their MRV systems. But all MRV systems must be scientifically robust, feasible, and relevant to the context and policy goals.

As of February 2017, only five developing countries have MRV methods in place to measure livestock emissions reductions and falling emissions intensity (emissions per unit of livestock product) resulting from changes in management practices, found researcher Andreas Wilkes of UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use in the CCAFS info note Monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock: current practices and opportunities for improvement.


Given the pressing need for improved livestock emissions MRV systems, CCAFS and a broad consortium of partners are studying opportunities for improved MRV to enable developing countries to meet mitigation targets. Key findings and recommendations are available in this info note; and a full report in English, French, and Spanish is expected later in 2017.

National GHG inventory approach: Tier 2 is necessary to capture mitigation

Many countries use a “Tier 1” approach for estimating emissions from livestock. This approach uses fixed values for emissions per head of livestock, so changes in emissions only reflect changes in livestock populations. If countries shift to a "Tier 2" approach, they will be able to capture the effects of different management practices on emissions and emissions intensity. "Tier 2" requires detailed information on different categories of animals and data on various factors, such as livestock weight, weight gain, and feed digestibility. And periodic updates would be needed. Read more about benefits of advanced greenhouse gas inventories for livestock.

When countries adopt or improve a "Tier 2" approach to improve national GHG inventories, they often need to improve cross-sector collaboration and invest in building technical capacities to improve cost-effective data collection and uncertainty analysis, for example. The report makes specific suggestions for improvements to national emissions inventories in the areas of policies, institutions and supporting conditions, along with methods.

Intervention-specific MRV systems

Most developing countries are still establishing policies and implementation measures supporting mitigation in the livestock sector. Though 124 developing countries mention livestock mitigation in a national communication or their NDC, for example, only nineteen developing countries have a nationally appropriate mitigation action (NAMA) proposed or being implemented.


Number of developing countries expressing intention or engaging in livestock mitigation actions.

MRV of mitigation actions would benefit from:

  • Guidance on good practices in baseline and mitigation scenario analysis.
  • Further development of assessment tools (e.g. Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model - GLEAM) to improve software capabilities and transparency.
  • Testing of MRV systems and innovations
  • Case studies of methods used in MRV at national, sub-national and project levels
  • Regional and cross-regional exchange workshops.

Next steps

The report benefited from the experiences of 32 livestock and MRV experts who deliberated on a draft discussion paper and provided insights on countries’ concerns, constraints and plans at a workshop in February 2017. A comprehensive, peer-reviewed report will be published later this year.

There is a high level of awareness that improved national GHG inventories and MRV systems can help countries meet their livestock development and climate policy goals, but strategies for improvement may vary depending on what those goals are,” said Wilkes.

At this stage, countries have the opportunity to develop MRV systems appropriate to their contexts and objectives. Developing countries and their international partners should consider:

  • Expanding support for analysis and identification of livestock mitigation strategies in countries, recognizing that MRV will need to be able to capture impacts across a range of mitigation practices.
  • Strengthening synergies among improvements in statistical systems or other livestock data systems and improvements in MRV.
  • Supporting sharing experiences among countries on inventory improvement and MRV system development.
  • Supporting innovation and piloting of MRV systems to increase practical experience and options.

Blog originally posted on Climatelinks on May 10, 2017. A version of this blog was originally posted on the CCAFS website.

Strategic Objective
Emissions, Forestry, Land Use, Mitigation, Sustainable Landscapes

Julianna White

Julianna White is a communications officer and program manager for CCAFS Low Emissions Development research.

More on the Blog

Climate adaptation can take many forms, ranging from disaster risk reduction to natural resources management, according to the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This blog is part of the Benefits of Climate Risk Management blog series that aims to provide evidence-based deep dives into USAID case studies. A USAID-funded Cambodia fisheries project outperformed productivity goals after incorporating climate-sensitive design, including planning for increased risk of drought and extreme heat events.
In December 2019, Typhoon Kammuri flooded parts of Legazpi City, one of the biggest natural hazard hotspots in the country. Earlier that year, USAID had helped the local water district develop an emergency preparedness plan for maintaining and restoring water services when disasters strike.