Creating rigorous pathways to monetize methane and nitrous oxide emission reductions at small scale rice farms in three states of semi-arid peninsular India

Monday, 15 December 2014
K. Kritee1, Rakesh Tiwari2, Drishya Nair2, Tapan Kumar Adhya1 and Joe Rudek3, (1)Environmental Defense Fund, International Climate, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Fair Climate Network, Bangalore, India, (3)Environmental Defense Fund, Office of Chief Scientist, New York, NY, United States
As a part of a joint undertaking by Environmental Defense Fund and the Fair Climate Network, we have measured reduction in methane and nitrous oxide emissions due to alternate “low carbon” rice cultivation practices for three ago-ecological zones in India for the past two years. Sampling for nitrous oxide and methane emissions was done on approximately 60-80% of the total number of days in a growing season and was based on modified GRACEnet protocol. In recognition of farmer’s economic interest and global food security demands, we also measured the effect of rice cultivation practices on farm economics and yields.

Our data from three agro-ecological zones for 2012-2014 suggest that, for semi-arid peninsular India, low-carbon rice cultivation practices offer large range of emission reduction potential (0.5-5 metric tons CO2e/acre/year). The regions with sandy soils (Alfisols) had high rates of nitrous oxide emissions even under baseline “flooded” rice cultivation regimes and, thus, the Tier 1 IPCC emissions factors grossly underestimate both the amount of nitrous oxide emission from conventional rice cultivation practices, and the extent to which it can be reduced through better fertilizer management. Also, the IPCC factors overestimate the methane emission reduction possible due to water management for rice paddies. Therefore, it is crucial to customize N and water management to each region such that yields and net GHG emission reduction are maximized. These practices also have the potential to decrease water use by 10-30% and improve long term soil health by optimizing organic matter and increasing water-holding capacity.

In addition, through GPS based demarcation of farmer plots, recording baseline practices through extensive surveys, documenting the parameters required to aggregate and prove implementation of low carbon rice farming practices, and to model the GHG emission reduction over large scales, we have put forward a path for better monetization of GHG emission reductions which will incentivize adoption of such practices. The payoff is a “triple win” including increased long-term food security (through enhanced yields), rural economic development (through improved farm profitability and adaptation), and lower environmental impacts (including lower GHG emissions).