For A Sustainable Farm Sector
Down To Earth|January 16, 2022
A look at strategies and pathways to make Indian agriculture resilient in a changing climate and help the country fulfil commitments it made at COP26
Arabinda K Padhee And Anthony Whitbread
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 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 tonnes of carbon by 2030; reducing the carbon emission intensity of the GDP by 45 per cent by 2030; and most importantly, achieving net-zero emissions by 2070. Here, we focus on agriculture and food systems and how India should fight the challenge of climate change in light of COP26.

India and 26 other 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. 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 India to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in early 2021, 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 fertiliser 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 has, for more than a decade now, 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 SemiArid Tropics (ICRISAT), have developed climate-smart agricultural technologies and approaches to assist the sector become less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. We present a list of strategies/ pathways that could be prioritised to make Indian agriculture sustainable in a changing climate.

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