Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

India needs a carbon policy for agriculture

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fertigation

Mains level : Paper 3- Emissions from agriculture and related issues

Context

The UK is set to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (CoP26) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 with a view to accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement’s goals. The focus should be on climate finance and transfer of green technologies at low cost.

Cause of concern for India

  • According to the Global Carbon Atlas, India ranks third in total greenhouse gas emissions by emitting annually around 2.6 billion tonnes (Bt) CO2eq, preceded by China (10 Bt CO2eq) and the United States (5.4 Bt CO2eq), and followed by Russia (1.7Bt) and Japan (1.2 Bt).
  • India ranked seventh on the list of countries most affected due to extreme weather events, incurring losses of $69 billion (in PPP) in 2019 (Germanwatch, 2021).
  • The fact that 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India is a major cause of concern.
  • Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital as per the World Air Quality Report, 2020.

Issues raised in global negotiation on climate change

  • Nations are still quibbling about historical global emitters and who should take the blame and fix it.
  • Global negotiations on climate change often talk about emissions on a per capita basis and the emission intensity of GDP.
  • Per capita emission: Of the top five absolute emitters, the US has the highest per capita emissions (15.24 tonnes), followed by Russia (11.12 tonnes).
  • India’s per capita emissions is just 1.8 tonnes, significantly lower than the world average of 4.4 tonnes per capita.
  • If one takes emissions per unit of GDP, of the top five absolute emitters, China ranks first with 0.486 kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP, which is very close to Russia at 0.411 kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP.
  • India is slightly above the world average of 0.26 (kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP) at 0.27 kg, while the USA is at 0.25, and Japan at 0.21.
  • In our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted in 2016, India committed to “reduce emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.”

Sector-wise emission and share of agriculture in it

  • Global emissions show that electricity and heat production and agriculture, forestry and other land use make up 50 per cent of the emissions.
  • But the emissions pie in India owes its largest chunk (44 per cent) to the energy sector, followed by the manufacturing and construction sector (18 per cent), and agriculture, forestry and land use sectors (14 per cent), with the remaining being shared by the transport, industrial processes and waste sectors.
  • The share of agriculture in total emissions has gradually declined from 28 per cent in 1994 to 14 per cent in 2016.
  • However, in absolute terms, emissions from agriculture have increased to about 650 Mt CO2 in 2018, which is similar to China’s emissions from agriculture.
  • Agricultural emissions in India are primarily from the livestock sector (54.6 per cent) in the form of methane emissions due to enteric fermentation and the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in agricultural soils (19 per cent) which emit nitrous oxides; rice cultivation (17.5 per cent) in anaerobic conditions accounts for a major portion of agricultural emissions followed by livestock management (6.9 per cent) and burning of crop residues (2.1 per cent).

Way forward: Carbon policy for agriculture

  • Reward farmers through carbon credit: A carbon policy for agriculture must aim not only to reduce its emissions but also reward farmers through carbon credits which should be globally tradable.
  • Focus on livestock: With the world’s largest livestock population (537 million), India needs better feeding practices with smaller numbers of cattle by raising their productivity.
  • Switch areas from rice to maize: While direct-seeded rice and alternative wet and dry practices can reduce the carbon footprint in rice fields, the real solution lies in switching areas from rice to maize or other less water-guzzling crops.
  • Efficient fertiliser use: Agricultural soils are the largest single source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in the national inventory.
  • Nitrous oxide emissions from use of nitrogen-fertiliser increased by approximately 358 per cent during 1980-81 to 2014-15.
  • An alternative for better and efficient fertiliser use would be to promote fertigation and subsidise soluble fertilisers.
  • Incentives and subsidies: The government should incentivise and give subsidies on drips for fertigation, switching away from rice to corn or less water-intensive crops, and promoting soluble fertilisers at the same rate of subsidy as granular urea.

Consider the question “Agriculture sector is one of the significant contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the importance of carbon policy for agriculture in India. In this context, suggest the steps needed to be taken under the policy.” 

Conclusion

Carbon policy for agriculture in India would help it meet its goals in reducing emissions while making agriculture climate-resilient.

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Back2Basics: Anaerobic conditions

  • An anaerobic process in which organic food is converted into simpler compounds, and chemical energy (ATP) is produced. Certain types use the electron transport chain system to pass the electrons to the final electron acceptor, which may be an inorganic or an organic compound, but not oxygen.
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