CCAFS / Climate Change / India / South Asia

India fights curbs on livestock-generated greenhouse gas emissions at Doha

Watering cattle in Rajasthan

Girdhai Lal Jat herds his cattle through the village of Nagar, in Tonk District, Rajasthan, India, to water (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

‘At the United Nations climate talks in Doha this week, India opposed any move that would require developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

‘With an estimated 485 million cattle, goat, buffalo and sheep, India has the most livestock in the world, and it is the second largest producer of methane in the world after China. Methane, a byproduct of livestock’s digestive process, is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and it traps 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide does.

‘Agriculture is too important to India to ask farmers to change their practices now, Indian representatives said in Doha.

‘“Agriculture is not only a source of economic growth but also a source of livelihood for millions of people,” R.R. Rashmi, a senior negotiator from India, told delegates. A majority of developing countries agreed that agriculture-related emissions—carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—should not be included in the gases nations are being asked to commit to cut. Instead, they’d like discussions on the topic to focus on how to help poor farmers affected by climate change. . . .

‘Methane emissions from cows can be reduced by altering their diet. Scientists say that livestock fed on grains such as barley, corn and wheat produce less methane than grass-fed cattle. In India, however, most farmers cannot afford to buy fodder, and cows mostly graze.

‘“Our animals are not stall-fed,” Ms. Mehrishi said. “So it’s very difficult for us to control any emissions” from livestock. . . .

‘While developed countries have greater agricultural output, developing countries have more farmers who would be affected by moves to cut carbon-related emissions, some experts say.

‘Ram Kishan, a livelihood analyst with Christian Aid, a British antipoverty organization, said it was still unclear whether developed or developing countries produce more emissions from agriculture. He said the intensive agriculture practiced in developed countries, using mechanized farming equipment and advanced irrigation systems, has the potential to emit more than small-scale agriculture does.

‘Agriculture-related emissions first became part of the climate-change talks in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. Some activists call that a mistake. “Developing countries should have killed the move in Durban,” Mr. Kishan said.’

Read the whole article by Betwa Sharma in The New York TimesIndia, world’s largest livestock owner, balks at farming gas curbs in Doha, 5 Dec 2012.

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