Dairy leaders remain upbeat after Copenhagen

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Anaerobic digestion

Dairy industry leaders remain upbeat about the role that producers and processers can play in tackling climate change, despite the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit to produce a substantive deal.

After a week of chaotic negotiations, the US, China, Brazil, India and South Africa signed an accord recognising a need to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2oC. But no agreement was reached on how that would be achieved and no commitments were made on carbon emission cuts.

Dairy UK director general, Jim Begg, said: “It is disappointing that a stronger agreement was not reached in Copenhagen.”


But Begg underlined how the summit had given the food industry an opportunity to demonstrate its potential in mitigating carbon emissions

He said: “Delegates appeared to accept that good soil and pasture management offered a vital service in locking up carbon.”

The opportunity to publicise what dairy farmers and processors can do to tackle climate change was gratefully received as the industry has come in for criticism in the run-up to the talks in Copenhagen.

A report from the Sustainable Consumption Commission (SCS) this month identified reduced dairy consumption as an effective tool in the battle to reduce emissions. Dairy UK and Dairy Management in the US have publically sought to challenge this perception by outlining various projects that the industry is undertaking to tackle climate change.

For example, the USDA and Dairy Management announced a target to cut dairy emissions 25 per cent by 2020. Anaerobic digester technology, which converts animal manure into electricity using generators, is expected to lead the way to achieving this goal.

From other corner of the food industry, the Copenhagen summit got a mixed reception.

For leading ingredients manufacturer Danisco, the Copenhagen talks were an “important step” ​although the company had hoped the negotiations would produce a legally binding agreement.

“All along, we had hoped for a binding agreement that would have set a price on CO2,”​ CEO Tom Knutzen.


Such an agreement could have created market mechanisms to punish businesses that fail to cut emissions, and encourage industry to up investment in green technologies.

As things stand, Knutzen said sustainability projects at Danisco would not be affected by the events in Copenhagen but: “A binding agreement here and now would probably have accelerated developments.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) was more damning in its assessment of the climate change talks. Andrew Kuyk, director of sustainability at the UK trade body, said the industry had been looking to Copenhagen for a legally binding agreement that would encourage the development of new low carbon technologies.

Kuyk said: “It seems clear that the outcome has fallen significantly short of these expectations and left many questions unanswered. This will inevitably add to the uncertainties for all businesses in what are still very difficult economic and competitive circumstances.”

Related topics Markets

Related news

Show more