The postponement of COP-26 at Glasgow should give some legroom to the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture to address issues related to mitigation of methane emissions from agriculture and livestock sectors.
The challenge of green development should encourage nations to make concerted efforts to achieve the goal of restricting GHG emissions to 1.5% above pre-industrial levels set by the Paris Agreement and also achieve SDGs by 2030. For achieving the 1.5% goal, emissions must drop 7.6% per year till 2030. The Paris Agreement aimed at securing commitment by countries to enhance their NDCs by 2020. According to the Emissions Gap Report, 2019 of UNEP, India, Russia and Turkey are projected to achieve 15+% lower than the NDC target emission levels, giving them enough room for raising their NDC ambitions significantly.
While the focus of Paris Agreement and the NDCs was on CO2 emissions from energy use and industry, which dominate total GHG emissions, reaching a record 37.5 GtCO2 per year, there has been a conspicuous absence of a plan to mitigate methane (CH4) emissions. Interestingly, CH4 emissions contribute to a third of the current anthropogenic GHG warming. Research by scientists at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of London, led by EG Nisbet, has shown that implementation of a wide array of mitigation and emission reduction strategies could substantially cut the global CH4 burden, at a relatively low cost compared to the parallel and necessary measures to reduce CO2, and mitigate the atmospheric methane burden back towards pathways consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Agriculture is the largest contributing sector to global emissions of non-CO2 GHGs, accounting for 48% of emissions in 2015. USEPA has projected that between 2015 and 2030, global agriculture sector emissions will increase by 10%. Further, agricultural soil emissions and livestock enteric fermentation emissions are projected to increase by 14% and 12%, respectively, between 2015 and 2030.
Paddy cultivation contributes about 15-20% of the total anthropogenic methane emissions. Methods like System of Rice Intensification (SRI), drip irrigation, soil amendments, organic matter management, different tillage, rotation, and cultivar selection, can facilitate mitigation of methane emission. Research has shown that SRI reduced methane emissions by 22% to 64%. SRI also facilitates a significant reduction in the cost of production, saving of freshwater and increasing yield and farmers’ income.
However, despite being practised for more than two decades, SRI has still not been mainstreamed in India. Skilling farmers and organising them into FPOs to collectively adopt SRI technique and disseminate the benefits of SRI needs to be incentivised and prioritised by central and state governments, and NABARD.
Experiments by scientists in Tamil Nadu have revealed that seasonal methane emission flux from paddy cultivation declined by 78% due to drip irrigation. SRI, in combination with solar-powered drip emitters along with artificial intelligence (AI)-embedded systems could be the best bet to increase rice yield and mitigate methane emission significantly.
Methane emissions from livestock are the result of enteric fermentation and manure management. It has been observed by scientists that a per cent increase in dietary fats in a forage diet comprising 30g lipid/kg dry matter intake has resulted in 3.5% reduction. The share of methane emission from enteric fermentation is estimated at around 54%. It is imperative to increase investment in R&D by leading dairy industry players by focusing on development of dietary supplements to reduce enteric fermentation, for which support from NABARD via Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) could be availed.
Mitigation potential from the agriculture sector is estimated to be approximately 593 MtCO2e in 2030. While India is among the top four emitters of CH4 from rice cultivation and livestock sector, it is also among the top countries which are important sources of abatement of CH4 emissions by 2030. India needs to raise its NDC ambition by including a target for mitigation of methane emission.
The postponement of COP-26 at Glasgow should give some legroom to the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture to address issues related to mitigation of methane emissions from agriculture and livestock sectors. Parties need to enhance their NDCs by including targets for methane mitigation. It’s time to act now before it is too late to achieve the Paris Agreement goal and the SDGs.