India eyes farm forestry to reduce carbon footprint
Agro-forestry or farm forestry will be India’s key strategy to reduce its carbon footprint so as to meet its goals under the Paris climate agreement according to the submission the country plans to make at the COP 24 climate conference that’s being held in Poland.
The forest conservation division of the union environment ministry has readied a document which will be presented during COP 24 underway at Katowice in Poland, as part of India’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy.
India plans to partner with the private sector in scaling up its agro-forestry efforts. This is, however, a controversial subject because environmental activists are against India allowing any private or corporate forestry projects on forest land.
India, through various forestry projects including agroforestry, aims to sequester about 2.5 to 3 billion tones of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2030.
“This is our aim in our REDD+ strategy. One of the key strategies will be to go big on agro-forestry. There are many other strategies too like treatment and protection of forest catchments,” said a senior forest division official who asked not to be named. The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) has worked on the proposal of carbon sequestration from forests in India.
The agro-forestry aspect of the policy has three options.
It can be taken up in non-forest government land with intervention from the private sector; on degraded or not notified forest land under the government with equal partnership from the private sector; or on common land with the consent of local communities.
“Profits from the projects will be shared with the community. Such projects will be taken up by private corporations only if local people agree. Its important because this strategy can help increase farmers’ incomes,” the official added.
According to the United Nations, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is an effort to value the carbon stored in forests as a way to create incentives for developing countries to protect their environment. India announced its target of creating a carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tones in its intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) during the negotiations in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement was adopted and opened for ratification at the 21st Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the UNFCCC in December 2015. Other INDC focus areas include reducing emissions intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) by 33- 35% from 2005 levels and to achieve about 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources, both by 2030.
Murli Dhar, director, sustainable agriculture, WWF India said: “It’s a good strategy which will help India adapt to climate change. But, there are certain concerns with its implementation. First is that the lock-in period of these plantations is a minimum of four years.
Secondly, India should do a trade-off analysis of how farm forestry will impact food security going forward. There should also be a buy back mechanism of timber from farmers. We are a timber deficit country and import in large quantities from Africa and East Asia, so the strategy makes sense.”
The proposal has ticked off some environmental activists who think private engagement will undermine the rights of forest dwellers. “The national REDD+ strategy is developed primarily from a failed model of colonial era forest management with adoption of legal and policy instruments such as compensatory afforestation fund (CAF) Act, Green India Mission, Joint Forest Management which undermine democratic governance of forests and legal rights of adivasis and forest dwellers. The REDD strategies promote massive mono-cultural plantations. The government should make a serious attempt to overhaul the country strategy to ensure its compliance to the forest rights act and governance of forests by gram sabhas,” said Tushar Dash of Community Forest Rights-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), a research group.
“We need to explore community forestry for public lands. For private land, there is a need to explore both forest department and state agriculture department promoted agro- forestry, in addition to involving the private sector,” said NH Ravindranath, climate and forestry scientist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.