Most of Australia's cattle are in the north, yet the pathways to bring the nation's beef industry to carbon neutrality by 2030 are best suited to southern systems.
While big strides are being made with feed additives to reduce methane, right now they are falling short as viable options in extensive grazing systems.
Landscape management initiatives are also unlikely to be sufficient in scale to offset emissions from enteric methane.
At this stage, reaching CN30 will depend on northern graziers producing more beef from less animals.
Against this backdrop of facts from CSIRO scientists delivered at the Northern Beef Research Update Conference in Darwin this week, just how ambitious a target CN30 is for the beef industry became crystal clear.
It also put into context concerns that were raised at the conference about the highly-publicised target, such as what societal backlash might come from failing to meet it.
Meat & Livestock Australia's environmental sustainability manager Margaret Jewell and manager of productivity and animal wellbeing David Beatty said they saw no reputational risk at play.
Modelling already showed the industry was on track to get very close to the target and additional work would happen between now and then to improve the chances even more, they said.
"We were the first industry to set such an ambitious target and by 2030 the progress made will place us as the industry that has done the most work and showed the most commitment and gone far further than any government or other industry in the world," Dr Jewell said.
"While everyone else focuses on 2050 targets, we will be way ahead of the game by then."
Dr Beatty said the target had created momentum "where the consumer sees the intent and investment we are making towards more sustainable production systems."
Given the amount of research underway, it was only a matter of time before a more efficient rumen, producing less methane, was a reality, he said.
Still, some strong anti-CN30 sentiment was expressed.
Northern Territory pastoralist Tom Stockwell, Sunday Creek Station near Katherine, described the goal as a "fanciful thing doomed for failure and embarrassment."
He also slammed other industry sustainability targets, saying he was sorry to have helped to give birth to the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework as a member of the implementation committee.
"It was supposed to be a body to protect us from outside sources like global roundtables but it has become a body setting targets for industry in absolute opposite directions to what we need," Mr Stockwell said.
He listed increasing timber in northern Australia as an example.
CSIRO senior research scientist Di Maybery told the conference a net zero northern beef industry was an ambitious goal given the currently available options.
Herd management to boost efficiency was the most feasible option - activities that lift liveweight gain, improve reproduction and increase survival of animals.
"If we are going to reach net zero we need to decrease absolute emissions, so this relies on producers keeping their productivity at the same level but doing it with less animals," she said.
Animal breeding was another strategy, but it offered low practicality and Dr Maybery said she remained unconvinced of its potential.
Research, some from France and some from Australia, was pointing to a 4 to 5pc methane reduction over a 10 year period, but Dr Maybery said that was reliant on getting those genetics out to all animals.
Vaccines were also not yet demonstrated, despite substantial investment, she said.
As for soil carbon, very big shifts would be required to get the northern industry to net zero.
"Carbon stocks are low in extensive grazing regions and rates of changes are also low; over a 30 year time it's really difficult to spot any change at all," she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.