Times of India: India can cut agricultural emissions and subsidies by creating a market for farm offsets
India has committed to a non-binding target to cut its emission intensity by 20-25 % (from 2005 levels) by 2020.This does not include agriculture. To meet this target and to adapt to climate change without sacrificing growth, India has articulated the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) with eight programmes.
Faster growth will raise energy demand by about five times, from 725 billion units now to 3,600 billion units by 2030.Energy is the biggest polluter, contributing 58% to greenhouse gas emissions, followed by industry (22%) and agriculture (18%).Within energy, power generation by thermal stations is the worst polluter. Land use, land use changes and forestry (LULUCF ) is a net sink that sequesters carbon (see accompanying graph).And here is an opportunity for agriculture to gain, provided there is a clear vision and courage to implement this.
Lower costs and pollution are added benefits. India has two objectives: one, cut carbon through conservation and energy efficiency 15% savings on generation and, two, switch to renewable energy, to reduce share of fossil fuels in power generation. We have introduced several market-based instruments based on the polluter-pays principle. Renewable energy generation also benefited from carbon credits when carbon markets were vibrant, without any burden on the exchequer for these shifts and creating a domestic market for offsets. Agriculture can offer one more market-based instrument. Within agriculture, livestock is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (63%),followed by paddy cultivation (21%).Agriculture contributes 90% to nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser and irrigated paddy cultivation.
The estimates account for direct emissions and not indirect sources, like groundwater pumping, and producing fertilisers and pesticides. We need efforts to make agriculture more resilient to climate change. The carbon sequestration potential, water conservation and harvesting on croplands in India is estimated to be 100-200 kg per hectare per year. Forestry too is a significant opportunity for offsets. We can cut farm emissions in many ways. One, by changing paddy cultivation practices by intermittent drying, direct seeded rice and so on. Two, changing livestock breeds or feeding practices with feed additives. Three, through conservation agriculture.
And, four, site-specific use of nitrogen and nitrification additives .Livestock is still a household activity, so there is little one can do to cut their emissions, but major reductions can come from shifts in paddy cultivation practices and cropping systems in Punjab, Haryana and southern India. This will require large-scale extension work, possibly through a tripartite agreement between farmer groups, state extension agencies and the private sector engaged in extension. But it is feasible. These could be very-low cost offsets. But how does one incentivise farmers to adopt this A cash incentive on per hectare basis to those who switch to these water-, energy- and fertiliser-saving technologies, without compromising output, is possible. This will not burden the exchequer and will save on less productive and irrational subsidies on irrigation, power and fertilisers. We need to switch these subsidies and give them back to farmers as incentives for better and greener farm practices.
Paddy cultivation in Punjab and Haryana requires around 3,000-4,000 litres of water per kg of rice produced, and is depleting groundwater by almost 33 cm a year. The shift to a maize-legume-wheat cropping system supported by conservation agriculture can bring about system-level emission reductions. Maize uses much less water than required for paddy. But if maize has to take off in Punjab, farmers would look for assured markets. While high-quality maize seeds are available from several private companies and international centres, government intervention may be needed to build a marketing infrastructure during the take-off stage. Paddy is Indias first staple food.
Therefore, it may be better to shift about one million hectares of common paddy there is no need to shift basmati rice, because basmati requires less water to grow from Punjab, Haryana and southern India to eastern India. Eastern India has more water and needs less irrigation. In the eastern belt too, we need some changes. We have to change irrigation technologies, use energy-efficient pump sets the water extraction of current pump sets in India is half that of pumps used in China and shift to solar pumps. This would also require incentives for farmers, like offset payments. While incentives to switch cropping systems or irrigation practices can come from the government through payment for environmental services that developing countries like China are increasingly employing, agriculture offsets could be an option through which large polluters can pay to farmers.
ustralia, for example, has launched its carbon-farming initiative and to develop this market, they have introduced a legislation wherein polluters can offset 5% of their emissions through agriculture offsets. India can launch a prototype in Punjab and Bihar, may be under the Sustainable Agriculture Mission under the NAPCC.Is anyone out there to carve out a new niche for a win-win solution
Author: A Gulati is chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and J Gujral is director of IDFC Foundation. Views are personal.
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>>