Caldeira Lab

CH4 and N2O Emissions Embodied In International Trade of Meat

Dario Caro, Anna LoPresti, Steven Davis, Simone Bastianoni & Ken Caldeira

Caro, D., A. LoPresti, S. J. Davis, S. Bastianoni, and K. Caldeira, 2014: CH4 and N2O emissions embodied in international trade of meat. Environ. Res. Lett., 9, 114005, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114005.


Although previous studies have quantified carbon dioxide emissions embodied in products traded internationally, there has been limited attention to other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Following IPCC guidelines, we estimate non-CO2 emissions from beef, pork and chicken produced in 237 countries over the period 1990–2010, and assign these emissions to the country where the meat is ultimately consumed. We find that, between 1990 and 2010, an average of 32.8 Mt CO2-eq emissions (using 100 year global warming potentials) are embodied in beef, pork and chicken traded internationally. Further, over the 20 year period, the quantity of CO2-eq emissions embodied in traded meat increased by 19%. The largest trade flows of emissions embodied in meat were from Brazil and Argentina to Russia (2.8 and 1.4 Mt of CO2-eq, respectively). Trade flows within the European region are also substantial: beef and pork exported from France embodied 3.3 Mt and 0.4 Mt of CO2-eq, respectively. Emissions factor of meat production (i.e. CO2-eq emissions per kg of meat) produced depend on ambient temperature, development level, livestock category (e.g. cattle, pork, and chicken) and livestock management practices. Thus, trade may result in an overall increase of GHG emissions when meat-consuming countries import meat from countries with a greater emissions intensity of meat production rather than producing the meat domestically. Comparing the emissions intensity of meat production of trading partners, we assess trade flows according to whether they tend to reduce or increase global emissions from meat production.



Figure 3. Largest interregional fluxes of emissions (Mtons of CO2-eq) embodied in trade of meat (aggregated to include beef cattle, pig and chicken meat) between largest net exporting-importing countries in the world (a) and Europe (b) in 2010. In the world map fluxes to and from Europe are aggregated to include the EU28. Maps show fluxes of emissions greater than 0.2 Mtons of CO2-eq.