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Dairy Delivers Methane Reduction

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

More incentives are needed to maintain progress and reach target by 2030

With digesters and other technologies, California dairy farms are delivering significant reductions in methane emissions.

California’s climate policies are ambitious. More than $13.8 billion has been allocated to date, to support a wide variety of projects that accelerate progress towards deep decarbonization and carbon neutrality across all economic sectors. Of these investments, California’s dairy methane reduction programs are delivering the most greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions to the state, providing significant contributions toward climate goals. While the progress to date is substantial, more work needs to be done to achieve the dairy and livestock sector’s methane reduction target.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently released a draft analysis of progress to date. The target (established in 2016 by Senate Bill 1383) is a 40 percent reduction of manure methane from the state’s livestock sector by 2030. Key takeaways from the draft analysis and other recent reports from the Newsom Administration include:

  • According to the annual California Climate Investments report, the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) alone is achieving more GHG (CO2e) reductions than any other climate investment, achieving 29% of total GHG reductions while being allocated just 2.1% of the funds implemented to date.

  • At a cost of just nine dollars ($9) per ton of CO2e reduced, the DDRDP is California’s most cost-effective investment in the fight against climate change.

  • Both the DDRDP and the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) are oversubscribed, documenting the need for additional funds.

  • To date, the state's family dairy farms have achieved more than half of the reductions needed to meet the 2030 target. However, California cannot and will not achieve its methane and overall GHG reduction targets without additional investments in dairy digesters.

  • The availability of public funding has been insufficient. Additional incentive funds of up to $75 million per year are needed.

As evidenced by the passage of SB 1383, California has long understood the importance of slowing the release of methane (CH4) and other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) to address global climate change. A recent global methane assessment conducted by the United Nations environmental program (UNep) emphasizes the need to further abate methane as a short-term hedge against the more damaging and long-term impacts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary GHG causing global warming.

Methane’s enormous potential as a mitigation opportunity is its short-lived nature, lasting just a decade or so in the atmosphere before breaking down. This means that stabilizing existing methane emissions quickly—and further reducing methane concentrations in the atmosphere—will most effectively help the world meet its 2050 targets for fighting global warming.

Funding short term methane emissions reductions should be priority number one for California. However, investments in methane reduction have decreased significantly in recent years, as funding for dairy methane reduction programs and other SLCPs have been cut.

Three recent reports from the Newsom Administration document the significant environmental, climate, social, and economic benefits of dairy digesters and dairy methane reduction efforts. These benefits include significant direct and indirect benefits to local disadvantaged communities and priority populations.

California Climate Investments - 2021 Annual Report

  • Documents that the dairy digester program is responsible for achieving 29% of all GHG reductions from all programs invested in by the state with just 2.1% of total funds implemented.

  • Identifies the dairy digester program as the state's most cost effective, at just $9 per ton of reduction.

  • Reports that 66% of funds expended on dairy digesters are benefiting priority populations.

California Department of Food and Agriculture - Report of Funded (DDRDP) Projects

  • Estimates the cumulative reduction from the dairy digester program as 21.12 million metric tons (MMTCO2e) over 10 years or 2.11 MMTCO2e annually.

  • Documents the environmental protection of water and air quality.

  • Identifies significant air, water quality, and nuisance (odor) benefits provided to local communities.

  • Documents progress toward the targeted livestock sector methane reductions.

  • Identifies the need for additional incentives and grant funding. ​

  • Estimates societal benefits of reducing livestock methane emissions at up to $2.46 billion.

  • Documents the 40% target reduction in dairy and livestock methane cannot be achieved without significant additional digester development.

  • Recognizes that the voluntary, incentive-based approach has helped fund projects that provide additional environmental benefits, including improved air quality and water quality protection.

CARB’s analysis concludes that, “While dairy and livestock sector has made significant progress, it must still achieve considerable methane emissions reductions to meet the 2030 target. This will require implementation of additional methane emissions reductions strategies, and continued collaboration among agencies and other stakeholders.” California’s dairy farmers will continue to do their part in this important work.

California dairy farmers need continued partnership in their efforts to reduce methane emissions and help cool the planet.


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