As big companies begin taking root in India, methane levels are rising. However, little attention is given to animal agriculture when it comes to cutting down on emissions.

Like the rest of the world, India too has promised to cut down on its emission and achieve net-zero by 2070, which, though is late compared to the target of 2040, has been widely accepted as a realistic timeline, given the country is the third-largest greenhouse generator, globally.

Most of the conversation has revolved around carbon emissions and fossil fuels. However, an equally, or more lethal, contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is still not getting the attention it needs.

What is methane?

Methane (CH4) is the second most abundant anthropogenic GHG after carbon dioxide, accounting for about 20 percent of global emissions. Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely due to human-related activities.

China, the United States, Russia, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico are estimated to be responsible for nearly half of all anthropogenic methane emissions.

In India, the major source of methane is ruminating animals – including cattle, buffaloes, sheep, and goats. According to the government data, India ranks 1st in cattle and buffalo population and is the largest producer of milk and buffalo meat, 2nd largest producer of goat meat and 3rd largest producer of poultry. An average lactating cow or buffalo in India emits around 200 litres of methane per day, while it is 85-95 litres for young growing heifers and 20-25 litres for adult sheep.

Methane emission highest from cattle

Methane emission was highest from cattle followed by buffalo and other species in livestock. Among the Indian states, Uttar Pradesh is the highest methane producer followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan due to their larger and denser livestock population. However, the highest methane emission density per square kilometer is estimated for Punjab followed by West Bengal and Bihar.

Until recently, livestock farming in India centered around small farms and farmers with a few cattle, which was their only source of income. But over the years the big agro companies have also made their presence felt in India as well.

“The livestock industry scene in India is undergoing a change in the global lines. Big brands are now very much involved in dairy, poultry and other industries. A few years, the Andhra government had proposed to set up a mega dairy farm in Nellor, with 9000 cows. This was later scrapped due to protests. Now, they are coming up with a mega dairy processing plant,” Bharati Ramachandran, CEO of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) told Indiatimes.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, livestock production currently contributes at least 14.5 {85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of all greenhouse gas emissions. If current production levels continue on the same trajectory, it is expected to account for nearly 81{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of emissions, rising global temperatures by 1.5 degrees by 2050.

Bharati said that despite the huge challenge the methane emissions from the livestock industry posses, the government has only incentivized the sector.

Little to no attention paid

“The problem is of a much larger magnitude in India, but little to no attention has been paid to address it so far. India is one of the few countries that has not signed the Global Methane Pledge and the Declaration on Forests and Land Use to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation” by 2030. So, India is clearly not speaking about methane. Only then we can come up with a clear policy to address the issue,” Bharati said.

Lasse Bruun, the CEO of 50by40 and an advocacy expert in climate, sustainable agriculture and food systems said that ending industrialised agricultural expansion of livestock and feed production would be incredibly beneficial to farmers, herders and other practitioners of traditional animal husbandry, who have overwhelmingly maintained sustainable, agroecological practices but whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change and sectoral intensification. It is also crucial to prevent further unsustainable animal agriculture intensification and expansion in the Global South, where increasing animal product consumption threatens the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers whom large-scale producers usually outcompete.

He also said that implementing policy measures that facilitate a transition towards plant-rich diets could free up 75{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} of agricultural land, which could be used for food production, conservation, reforestation, ecosystem restoration and other essential purposes to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The transition would also reduce pressure on ocean systems and species which are declining at alarming rates.

Original source: https://www.indiatimes.com