First-of-its-kind “Pathways to Dairy Net Zero” initiative to raise climate ambition for the global dairy sector

  • Global Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative is being created to accelerate climate change action throughout the dairy sector.
  • New research is being conducted to identify where positive change is possible across all types of dairy systems and regions.
  • The entire international dairy supply chain, which produces nutritious foods for six billion people and provides livelihoods for one billion people worldwide, is called on to increase their climate actions and join this movement.
  • Initiative announced at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit (Rome) on Monday, July 26, 19.30 CEST.

Chicago, IL, USA (July 26, 2021) – A first-of-its-kind Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative is being developed to accelerate climate change action throughout the global dairy sector. Announced today at the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Pre-Summit, the climate effort will be unlike any other in agriculture in terms of size, breadth, and scope.

“The global dairy sector is creating this ground-breaking initiative to help speed climate action already underway, while continuing to provide livelihoods for a billion people and important nutrition for six billion people,” said Donald Moore, Executive Director at the Global Dairy Platform.

A multi-stakeholder group of organizations, including the global dairy sector and representatives from the scientific and research communities, are working together to develop methodologies, tools and pathways that work for every dairy system. Pathways to Dairy Net Zero will officially launch during the UN Food Systems Summit in September and aims to generate commitments at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November.

New research to guide the initiative

Research is underway to identify where positive climate change action is possible across all dairy production systems and regions throughout the world. The study is being conducted by the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Scotland’s Rural College and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Preliminary findings include:

  1. Positive change is possible across all dairy systems and regions. Although there is a wide variety of production systems globally, there are opportunities for all to reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) intensity.1
  2. Collaboration is needed to reduce dairy’s emissions. Many climate, poverty, and malnutrition challenges can be addressed through adoption of best practices in similar dairy systems.2
  3. Reducing methane may be key to fast results. Methane, a primary GHG produced by ruminant livestock, is short-lived. As a result, more reductions in methane would have a more immediate effect on warming.3
  4. Dairy already has the means to reduce a significant proportion of emissions.4 Initial evidence suggests emissions can be reduced up to 40 percent in some systems by improving productivity and resource use efficiency.
  5. Defining terminologies and targets will focus efforts to achieve the best results. As indicated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, dairy’s carbon dioxide emissions need to strive to Net Zero, but its methane reduction can range from 24-47 percent, and its nitrous oxide reduction can be 26 percent.5

“Our initial analysis suggests that wider use of existing GHG mitigation technologies will make an important impact in reducing dairy’s emissions in the short term, while the development of new innovations takes place,” said Hayden Montgomery, Special Representative of GRA. “This initiative may ultimately act as a blueprint for other livestock sectors,” he added.

For more information about Pathways to Dairy Net Zero, visit:

You can register here for the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit affiliated session “Raising the climate ambition for the agriculture sector: An approach from dairy” on Monday, July 26, at 19:30 CEST.



  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2010. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector: A Life Cycle Assessment. Available at: [Accessed July 2021].
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2019. Climate change and the global dairy cattle sector: The role of the dairy sector in a low‐carbon future. Available at: [Accessed July 2021].
  3. UN Environment Programme. 2021. Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions. Available at: [Accessed July 2021].
  4. Gerber PJ, Steinfeld H, Henderson B, et al. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. Available at: [Accessed July 2021].
  5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2018. Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Available at: [Accessed July 2021].


About Pathways to Dairy Net Zero

This is a vibrant, growing movement, the first of its kind in the world. It brings together dairy production systems of every size and type, as well as organizations throughout the dairy supply chain. Collaborators include Global Dairy Platform, International Dairy Federation, Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, International Livestock Research Institute, Dairy Sustainability Framework and IFCN Dairy Research Network. The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases is a knowledge partner.

Pathways to Dairy Net Zero

4 min
World Without Cows
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