India’s Climate Action Progress Satisfactory but Agri Sector Needs more Emphasis on New Crop Technologies – By Dr. Shivendra Bajaj – Executive Director, FSII

Bushfires in summers are not uncommon for the people living in Australia. But what they witnessed this year was a mega-blaze, burning over 5 million hectares of land and claiming human lives. The bushfire incident prompted a warning of impending catastrophic dangers that can be triggered by nature due to climate change.

 

Dr. Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India

Climate change is real. Heat and dry conditions were the two major factors that exacerbated the Australian Bushfire, climate scientists observed. That makes it imperative for every country to reduce greenhouse gases emissions significantly and strive hard to meet the goals defined under the Paris Agreement.

 

Dr. Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India, said, we must take a look at how the politicians in New Zealand came together and ensured smooth passage of the “Zero Carbon” bill aiming at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a near-neutral level by 2050. While there are some differences over speed and priority aspects regarding the framework to tackle the problem, both sides of political divide in the island nation supported the legislation.

 

Despite being the fastest growing economy, India has shown great commitment in achieving most of the goals under Paris Agreement. The commitment for emission intensity of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 33-35% by 2030 and it has reduced by 21 percent over the period of 2005-2014, states the Second Biennial Update Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. By 2030, India’s emission intensity is projected to be even lower-in the range of 35 to 50 percent. Also, we are well on the way to achieve the target of share of non-fossil fuel run power generation. As of September 2019, the non-fossil fuel electricity capacity stands at 38% (India committed 40% by 2030) and includes a mix of renewables, large hydro, and nuclear energy, however, the country still will have to keep increasing the margin of non-fossil fuel to cut the dependence on coal.

 

The increase in forest and tree cover has been quite marginal – from 24.01 percent of the total geographical area in 2013 to 24.56[1] percent in 2019, according to the India State of Forest Report 2019. It makes India’s march toward creating additional carbon sink ‘carbon sink‘ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a bit slower. We need to look for measures, such as protection and conservation of forests, increase the green cover for better carbon sequestration and growing trees outside forest.

 

Agricultural expansion is the biggest driver of deforestation as it accounts for 80 percent of forest loss worldwide, says Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). In India, the total area under agriculture is 42.69 percent of the total geographical area of the country (328.73 million hectares). According to official statistics, the country’s average crop yield is significantly lower than the global average. As per 2016 figures, India’s rice yield was 2,191 kg per hectare while the global average stood at 3,026 kg per hectare. For wheat, it was 2,750 kg per hectare as against the world average yield of 3,289 kg per hectare.

 

While Indian government has several schemes for boosting crop production, there is a need to improve the yield and at the same time curtail the necessity of converting forest lands into farmlands. Innovations in agriculture sciences is one of the ways that can help us achieve the feat. Therefore, the government policies will have to put greater emphasis on science and technology. Seeds which are resilient to climate change will go long way to sustain farmers and feed the consumers. Additionally, a strong infrastructural base should be built to support the produce from field to market.

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