India water Portal: India like many other developing countries has focused its agricultural policies on increasing agricultural production to meet food security. While climate change mitigation has been included into its agricultural sector, the developed world argues that if it does not reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, these emissions are expected to increase with population growth, and eventually contribute to continued climate change, ultimately affecting productivity. This was the subject matter of a discussion which followed a lecture by Dr. Eva ‘Lina’ Wollenberg, Climate Change. Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) at the Centre for Environmental Sciences and Climate Resistant Agriculture, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) on August 2, 2012.
The lecture titled “Is mitigation of climate change in agriculture necessary?” thrashed out if there was a need to consider agriculture as a special case. There are after all limits to how much we can reduce emissions from agriculture when compared to other industrial sectors. Imposing too strict a standard on agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions could jeopardize food security in a country like India.
Dr. Wollenberg shared the basics of emission by the agriculture sector and highlighted that it contributes considerably to climate change by emitting about ten to twelve per cent of emissions. The figures would be much higher if we count associated emissions from deforestation, transport and processing of food products. It has a large technical and economic potential for reducing greenhouse gases, she added.
Wollenberg said that 20 giga tons of anthropogenic carbon are put into the air every year and that the impact of human activity (industrial or otherwise) upon the planet is real. A third of global emission is from agriculture, forests and land use change. She stated that majority of agricultural emissions are from the developing world.
Low emissions agricultural development was a target of the CCAFS. It has been working primarily on four themes namely, adaptation, risk management, mitigation and integrated decision making. It was working on developing and assessing innovative institutions and incentives that enable mitigation and ensure benefits for the poor smallholder systems. The key message of the lecture was that there is a need to identify climate change mitigation strategies that reduce poverty among the rural poor.
Only a long term stabilization of less than 450 ppm can avoid temperature rise above 2 degree Celsius, Wollenberg said. To achieve 450 ppm we need to produce less than 1000 giga tons of carbon emission over 50 years. Agriculture was contributing 5.1 to 6.1 giga tons of carbon in 2005 or twenty five per cent of the limit.
She dealt with the concept of a ‘floor’ in emissions caused by sectors such as food production as against a cumulative target. She said that the introduction of emissions floors does not reduce the importance of cumulative emissions, but may make some climate targets achievable. Modeling shows that emission floor slows the rate at which temperature declines.
There is a need to research on the impacts of different levels of minimum emission floors for different aspects of agriculture, she said. Total emissions from future agriculture including increases in agricultural production, intensification and conversion of carbon rich lands need to be probed using various scenarios – (i) food only (ii) cereals only and (iii) resource constrained farmers only. What if scenarios need to be developed for a situation where we mitigate agricultural GHGs only in Annex I countries, BRICS, large commercial farmers, only certain sub sectors etc. We need to find answers as to whether we can spare the farmers most vulnerable to climate change.
In a resource limited world there is a need for efficiencies and increased production. Efficiencies will be needed in energy, water and fertilizer sectors. Increased input efficiency in production will reduce emissions per kg. She also seemed to suggest that for agriculture, emission reduction targets should be expressed on an “intensity” basis – lower green house gases (GHGs) per kg of food produced. This means that a country like India would not necessarily have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms, but rather, in terms of a given quantity of foodgrain produced. This is a realistic expectation given that its food production will have to cater to the growing population. She also talked of the need for storing of carbon in trees, forests, grasslands and soils apart from the need to intensify sustainability.
She dealt with the need for urgent policy decisions and targeted actions to balance agricultural production with GHG emissions. It began with how climate change is increasingly threatening sustainable agriculture, a livelihood for the majority poor – not just in India but also globally – and that it warrants serious policy and action.
A policy conclusion she made was that we can measure agricultural GHGs at reasonable costs, something which is refuted by many. There is a need to better link GHG measurement to measurements of yields and adaptation. Wollenberg said that she was convinced that carbon markets will be a small proportion of overall carbon mitigation practices. Her presentation highlighted how within the agriculture sector mitigation responsibilities can be shifted across groups.
She concluded by saying that increasing soil organic carbon has both mitigation as well as adaptation elements in it. Farmers can play a significant role in emission reduction and in enhancing carbon stocks if given the right incentives and if mitigation options impact their livelihoods positively.
<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/JY_Gw_lcIjQ?feature=player_embedded” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>