Indian agriculture: The route post-CoP 26
India’s pledge of Panchamrit (five-fold strategy) to fight climate change, announced during the 26th Conference of the Parties (CoP26) at Glasgow, Scotland, has caught global attention. The country’s new commitments include reaching 500 gigawatt (GW) of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030; producing 50 per cent of energy requirements via renewable energy sources by 2030; a reduction of 1 billion tons of carbon by 2030; reducing the carbon emission intensity of the GDP by 45 per cent by 2030; and most importantly, achieving the target of net-zero emissions by 2070.
A basket of agreements was signed by groups of countries during the Glasgow Summit. Here, we focus our discussions on agriculture and food systems and how India should prepare and act to fight the challenge of climate change in light of CoP26.
As many as 26 countries signed the Sustainable Agriculture Policy Action Agenda at the summit to set a course of action to protect food systems and prevent loss of biodiversity against climate change. The countries laid down their commitments with a pledge “to use land sustainably and put protection and restoration of nature at the heart of all”.
India did not sign the agenda as its Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), one of the missions within the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), is already operational to deal with the issue of climate change in the agriculture sector.
At the present inflection point, when the agricultural sector in these countries, and for that matter across the planet, is threatened by the adversities brought by climate change, these initiatives seem to be a good way to reinvigorate efforts to promote and practice sustainable agriculture technologies.
While Indian agriculture is adversely impacted by the vicissitudes of climate change, the sector also is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As per the Third Biennial Update Report submitted by the Government of India in early 2021 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the agriculture sector contributes 14 per cent of the total GHG emissions (energy 75.01 per cent; industrial process and product use 8 per cent; and waste 2.7 per cent, as per 2016 data).
Within the sector, 54.6 per cent of GHG emissions were due to enteric fermentation, followed by 17.5 per cent from rice cultivation, 19.1 per cent from fertilizer applied to agricultural soils, 6.7 per cent from manure management, and 2.2 per cent due to field burning of agricultural residues. Therefore, effective mitigation measures and appropriate adaptation technologies must be taken to reduce GHG emissions from the agriculture sector.
India’s approach has been a balancing act between growth and sustainability in its climate change policies and it is leading the developing nations to place agriculture in the ongoing negotiations. The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, as part of National Action Plan on Climate Change for more than a decade now, has focused to make Indian agriculture sustainable, considering likely risks arising from climate variability.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and International Agricultural Research Centres of the CGIAR system (a France-headquartered public agricultural innovation network), including International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), have developed climate smart agricultural technologies and approaches to assist the agricultural sector to be less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.
We present a list of strategies/pathways that could be prioritized in the policy agenda to make Indian agriculture resilient and sustainable in a changing climate.
Diversifying from existing cropping systems, predominated by rice and wheat in many unsustainable landscapes, to more nutritious and environment-friendly crops have often been suggested to address challenges of climate change and malnutrition. However, such a transition must protect the income base of the farmers.
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Dr Arabinda K Padhee, Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs
Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director Resilient Farm and Food Systems