Reducing the Carbon footprint of Agriculture - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in news?

  • Recently, The Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working group-1 has issued a “code red” to humanity as we rush towards a 1.50C better planet by 2050.
  • Also, United Kingdom is all set to host the 26th UN climate change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 with an aim to accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement’s goals.

India and its climate related statistics-

  • Although countries have collectively emitted more than their estimated emission allowances and by keeping all the arguments of climate justice in mind, the action on the ground is too late.
  • Surprisingly, 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the would are in India which in itself is a major cause of concern.
  • According to the would Air Quality Report, 2020, Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital.
  • The winter months poses a big challenge in the adjoining state as AQI beyond 300 on average has become new normal with some days going as high as 600 to 800, while the safe limit is below 50.
  • According to the Global Carbon Atlas, India emits around 2.6 billion tonner (BT) CO2 eq making it to rank third in total greenhouse gas emissions annually. India is preceded by China (10 Bt CO2 eq) and the United States (5.4 Bt CO2 eq) and followed by Russia (1.7 Bt) and Japan (1.2 Bt).
  • When it comes to emission on a per capita basis, of these top five absolute emitters, US is at Number 1 position with per capita emission of 15.24 tonnes followed by Russia which has 11.12 tonnes of per capita emissions. India’s per capita emission is just 1.8 tonnes, which is lower than the world average of 4.4 tonnes per capita.
  • Taking the criteria of emission per unit of GDP, of the top 5 absolute emitters, China has been ranked first with 0.486 kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP, very close to Russia (0.411kg per 2017 PPP $ of GDP). India is slightly above the world average of 0.26 kg per 2017 PPP $ GDP at 0.27 kg.
  • Also, India has been ranked seventh on the list of countries most affected due to extreme weather events which accounts for losses of $ 69 bn.
  • India submitted is Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2016 in which India committed to reduce emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 form 2005 level, a total of 40% of the installed capacity for electricity from non-fossil fuel sources and an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tones of CO2 equivalent through additional forest cover and tree cover by 2030.

Sector wise emissions-

  • Sector wise global emissions indicated that electricity and heat production and agriculture, forestry and other land use make up 50% of the emissions.
  • But sector wise India’s emission shows the largest emissions by the energy sector (44%) followed by the manufacturing and construction sector (18%) and agriculture, forestry and land use sectors (14%) and the remaining being emitted by transport, industrial processes and waste sectors.
  • Although, the share of agriculture in total emission has declined gradually from 28% in 1994 to 14% in 2016. But in absolute terms, emissions from agriculture have increased to about 650 Mt CO2 in 2018 which is similar to China’s emission from agriculture.

Reasons for Agricultural Emissions-

  • Primarily, agriculture emissions in India are from the livestock sector (54.6%) in the form of methane emission which is mainly due to enteric fermentation and the use of nitrogenous fertilizers in agricultural soils which emits nitrous oxides.
  • Cultivation of Rice in anaerobic conditions accounts for a major portion of agricultural emissions of 17.5% followed by livestock management (6.9%) and burning of crop residues (2.1%).

Addressing emissions-

1. Due to enteric fermentation-

  • India has the world’s largest livestock population of 537 million, so India needs better feeding practice with smaller numbers of cattle by raising their productivity.
  • A carbon policy for agriculture not only aims to reduce its emissions but also reward farmers through carbon credits.

2. Due to Rice Cultivation-

  • Emission from rice cultivation can be reduced by direct seeding of rice and by use of alternative wet and dry practices.
  • An important technique by which the carbon footprint in rice fields can be reduced is switching areas from rice to maize or other less water-guzzling crops. Also opening up corn for ethanol can help not only reduce the huge dependence on crude oil imports but also reduce the carbon footprint.
  • Also, it’s time for India to come up with a policy to develop global carbon markets and explain how to adjust carbon credits when selling it to polluting industries abroad so the emission reductions are not double counted in India and the country purchasing carbon credits.

3. Due to Agricultural soils-

  • Agricultural soils are the largest single source of Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emission and Nitrous Oxide emissions from use of nitrogenous fertilizers increased by approximately 358% during 1980-81 to 2014-15, growing significantly at the rate of 5100 tonnes per year.
  • For efficient use of fertilizer, few alternatives can be used like fertigation and subsidize soluble fertilizers.
  • Almost 70% of the granular fertilizers thrown over plants are polluting the environment.
  • The need is to incentivize and give subsidies on drips for fertigation and promoting soluble fertilizers.

Way forward-

Keeping in mind the global target to limit the global temperature increase to well below 20C in this century above pre-industrial levels and limit the increase to 1.50C by 2100, focus should be on prevailing climate finance mechanism for mitigation practices.

Another important aspect for reducing emissions globally and regionally is the use of green technologies at low cost.

Now, its high time delaying the implementation of targets. Every nation must act proactively to save mother earth from further degradation. The need to a more greener earth is a sustainable targeted mechanism with timely implementation and binding provisions.

General Studies Paper 3
  • Agriculture, Climate Change