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FAO Report on Methane Emissions


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report titled “Methane Emissions in Livestock and Rice Systems” during the inaugural ‘Global Conference on Sustainable Livestock Transformation’ in September 2023. This report underscores the significant climate impact of methane emissions from livestock and rice paddies. It highlights the crucial role of reducing methane emissions in aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as emphasized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.


GS III Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings from the Report on Methane Emissions:
  2. Initiatives to Tackle Methane Emissions

Key Findings from the Report on Methane Emissions:

Methane Contributors:

  • Ruminant livestock and manure management are responsible for about 32% of global anthropogenic methane emissions.
  • Rice paddies contribute an additional 8% of methane emissions.
  • Various other human activities, including landfills, oil and natural gas systems, coal mines, and more, generate methane emissions.

Ruminants and Methane:

  • Among ruminants, cattle are the highest daily emitters of methane, followed by sheep, goats, and buffalo.
  • Ruminants belong to the suborder Ruminantia within the order Artiodactyla, encompassing a diverse group of animals like giraffes, okapis, deer, cattle, antelopes, sheep, and goats.

Growing Demand for Animal Products:

  • Ruminant meat and milk serve as significant protein sources, and there is an anticipated 60-70% increase in global demand for animal products by 2050.

Focus on Feed Improvement:

  • The report emphasizes improving feed to reduce methane emissions by enhancing feed efficiency.
  • This includes increasing nutrient density, feed digestibility, altering rumen microbial composition, and selectively breeding animals with negative residual feed intake and smaller metabolic body weight.
  • Enhanced feed efficiency can enhance animal productivity per unit of feed, potentially increasing farm profitability considering feed costs and meat/milk revenues.

Importance of Regional Studies:

  • The report underscores the necessity for regional studies to quantify the impact of improved nutrition, health, reproduction, and genetics on increasing animal production while decreasing methane emissions.
  • These studies can assess the effects of mitigation strategies on net greenhouse gas emissions at a regional level.
Strategies for Mitigating Methane Emissions:

The study identifies four broad strategies for mitigating methane emissions:

  • Animal breeding and management.
  • Feed management, diet formulation, and precision feeding.
  • Forages.
  • Rumen manipulation.
Challenges and Research Gaps:
  • Challenges include a lack of regional data to calculate carbon footprints and limited economically viable methane mitigation solutions.
  • Further research is required to develop practical and cost-effective measures to address methane emissions effectively.

Initiatives to Tackle Methane Emissions

Indian Initiatives:
  • Harit Dhara (HD):
    • Developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), it’s an anti-methanogenic feed supplement.
    • Reduces cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and enhances milk production.
  • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA):
    • Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, it promotes climate-resilient practices, including methane reduction in rice cultivation.
  • National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA):
    • Developed by ICAR under NICRA project.
    • Technologies to mitigate methane emissions from rice cultivation:
      • System for Rice Intensification: Increases rice yield by 36-49% with 22-35% less water.
      • Direct Seeded Rice: Reduces methane emissions by eliminating traditional methods.
      • Crop Diversification Programme: Shifts from paddy cultivation to alternative crops, minimizing methane emissions.
  • Bharat Stage-VI Norms:
    • India transitioned from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms to reduce vehicular methane emissions.
Global Initiatives:
  • Methane Alert and Response System (MARS):
    • Integrates data from satellites to detect methane emission events worldwide and notifies stakeholders for action.
  • Global Methane Pledge:
    • A voluntary commitment by nearly 100 countries, established at the Glasgow climate conference (UNFCCC COP 26) in 2021.
    • Aims to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.
    • India is not part of the Global Methane Pledge.
  • Global Methane Initiative (GMI):
    • An international public-private partnership focused on overcoming barriers to recovering and using methane as a clean energy source.

-Source: Down To Earth

December 2023