From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : GHG from agriculture
Mains level : Paper 3- Moving toward net-zero agriculture
In the backdrop of the 2070 carbon neutrality target set by India at the CoP26 in Glasgow, the Union Budget for 2022-23 has listed “climate action” and “energy transition” as one of the four priorities for the Amrit Kaal.
Climate related announcement in Budget 2022-23
- An additional allocation of Rs 19,500 crore for solar PV modules has been made.
- The finance minister also talked of co-firing of 5-7 per cent of biomass pellets in thermal power plants, “sovereign green bonds” and a “battery-swapping policy”.
- These are positive steps towards making the energy and transport sectors less polluting.
How agriculture impact environement
- Agriculture contributes 73 per cent of the country’s methane emissions.
- Third largest emitter: India has kept away from the recent EU-US pledge to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, despite the country being the world’s third largest emitter of methane.
- As per the national GHG inventory, the agriculture sector emits 408 MMT of carbon-dioxide equivalent and rice cultivation is the third highest source (17.5 per cent) of GHG emissions in Indian agriculture after enteric fermentation (54.6 per cent) and fertiliser use (19 per cent).
- Paddy fields are anthropogenic sources of atmospheric nitrous oxide and methane, which have been reckoned as 273 and 80-83 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in driving temperature increase in 20 years’ (Sixth Assessment Report IPCC 2021).
- Moreover, paddy fields require about 4,000 cubic metres of water per tonne of rice for irrigation.
- There is scientific evidence that intermittent flooding reduces water and methane emissions but increases nitrous oxide emissions.
- Thus, lowering of methane emissions through controlled irrigation does not necessarily mean net low emissions.
- Role of subsidies and procurement policies: The environmental damage caused by agriculture is largely a result of the various kinds of subsidies — on urea, canal irrigation and power for irrigation — as well as the minimum support prices (MSP) and procurement policies concentrated on a few states and largely on two crops, rice, and wheat.
Excess rice and wheat stock
- As of January 1, the stocks of wheat and rice in the country’s central pool were four times higher than the buffer stocking requirement.
- Rice stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) are seven times the buffer norms for rice.
- The financial value of these excessive grain stocks is Rs 2.14 lakh crore, of which Rs 1.66 lakh crore is because of excess rice stocks — as per the economic cost of rice and wheat given by the FCI.
- All this does not just reflect inefficient use of scarce capital, the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) embedded in these stocks is also large.
- Carbon tax: According to the IMF, the world needs a carbon tax of $ 75 per tonne by 2030 to reduce emissions to a level consistent with a 2 degree Celsius warming target.
- India does not have an explicit carbon-price yet, but many countries have begun to implement carbon pricing.
- Revisiting policies: The Economic Survey 2021-22 points out that the country is over-exploiting its ground water resource (see map), particularly in the northwest and some parts of south India.
- This calls for revisiting policies to subsidise power and fertilisers, MSP and procurement and reorient them towards minimising GHG emissions.
- Farmer groups and the private sector can be mobilised to develop carbon markets in agriculture, both at the national and international levels, which can reward farmers in cash for switching from carbon-intensive crops to lower GHG emissions.
Consider the question “Elaborate on the impact of agriculture on the environment. Suggest the changes needed in Indian agriculture policies to reduce the impact.”
Such a move towards “net-zero” agriculture will give India a “climate smart” agriculture in Amrit Kaal. And, if we can protect productivity levels with a low-carbon footprint, it will help India to access global markets too.