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Carbon Policy & Agriculture

The United Nations Global Environment Outlook Report, March 2019 made a stark statement on climate change. Here is an excerpt from the report:

“Urgent action at an unprecedented scale is necessary to arrest and reverse this situation... Key actions include reducing land degradation, biodiversity loss... improving water management... addressing decarbonization, ...and the prevention and management of risk and disasters.”
Decarbonization, reducing our carbon footprint & reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a few key components of combating climate change. And these components apply to agriculture as well. So, what is India doing in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting a healthy carbon policy in place? 

The situation  
According to the Global Carbon Atlas ranking, India comes in third in Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2 Eq.). 14% of emissions (according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) come from the agriculture sector including livestock, soil emissions, rice cultivation, use of nitrogen fertilisers, and burning crop residue. It has therefore become quite important for India to have a comprehensive carbon policy.
In the year 2021, India committed to the following at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow:

1. Reduce carbon intensity of the economy to below 45%
2. Net-zero emissions GHG emissions by the year 2070
3. Reduction in total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes
4. Non-fossil fuel energy capacity of 500 GW by the year 2030
5. Meeting 50% energy requirements from renewable sources

The solutions
Focusing on the agriculture sector, it is heartening to note that quite a few solutions and programs have been started at multiple levels. The goal is to make agriculture a climate-positive sector and interestingly, this sector can be made part of the solution when it comes to carbon policy.

Pictorial of carbon dioxide particles floating over soil

For example, carbon sequestration in the soil can help India offset up to 4% (on an average) of GHG per year. When done right, sequestration can help soil absorb around 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon. There is the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) working under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). NMSA focuses on multiple aspects including soil health management which will help mitigate climate change.
Harnessing solar power is another area that can help India deal with carbon policy. The PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan) scheme was launched in 2019 and aims to set up renewable energy plants, instal solar agriculture pumps, and solarise 10 lakh agriculture pumps connected to the grid. Agrivoltaics is an emerging sector too. India is steadily embracing the creative blend of renewable energy, solar photovoltaics, and agricultural development for reducing its carbon footprint.

Carbon credits are another ‘trending’ topic in the Indian agriculture scenario. Carbon farming is a growing concept and in agriculture, so far, this has been limited to large-scale farmers. With the growth of digital, smart technologies even small-scale farmers can now access carbon credit systems and play their part in helping reduce GHG emissions.

Thus, a combination of smart tech, government programmes, increased awareness, growth in scientific knowledge, & a systematic approach to carbon policies is helping India make a change in climate-friendly agricultural practices.