Union Government’s Framework for Agricultural Carbon Markets

On January 29, 2024, the central government took a significant step towards promoting sustainable practices in the agricultural sector by launching a comprehensive framework aimed at fostering voluntary carbon markets. This initiative, spearheaded by Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare and Tribal Affairs, Arjun Munda, marks a crucial milestone in the nation’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

The newly introduced ‘Framework for Voluntary Carbon Market in Agriculture Sector and Accreditation Protocol of Agroforestry Nurseries’ is designed with the explicit purpose of incentivizing small and medium-scale farmers to actively participate in carbon credit programs. By providing a structured framework, the government aims to empower farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices while simultaneously reaping the benefits of carbon credits.

Minister Arjun Munda emphasized the significance of this initiative in addressing the dual challenges of agricultural sustainability and climate change mitigation. He underscored the importance of encouraging farmers to embrace practices that not only enhance agricultural productivity but also contribute to reducing carbon emissions, thus fostering a more resilient and sustainable agricultural landscape.

This framework represents a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including government agencies, agricultural experts, and environmental organizations, to establish a robust mechanism for promoting carbon sequestration and sustainable land management practices in the agriculture sector. Through this initiative, the government seeks to create a conducive environment for the widespread adoption of agroforestry practices, which play a pivotal role in enhancing soil health, biodiversity, and overall ecosystem resilience.

“Introducing farmers to the carbon market will not only benefit them but also accelerate the adoption of environment-friendly agricultural practices,” the minister said.

Carbon markets are systems designed to place a price on carbon emissions and create economic incentives for emission reduction, also known as ‘carbon credits’.

Munda, while launching the framework, requested full cooperation from the concerned ministries of the Centre and states and other concerned organizations to promote carbon markets in the interest of farmers.

“This is the first step in which we want to ensure everyone’s participation. Global challenges like global warming are in front of all of us; hence we have to move ahead with caution,” he said.

He also asked the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to play an active role in this direction and “do good work in a right manner”. While it was launched on January 29, more details on how it will be introduced within the sector were awaited.

Around 54.6 percent of the country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture and allied sectors’ activities, with the share of the agriculture sector in the gross domestic product being 18.6 percent. The sown area was 139.3 million hectares, out of the total geographical area of the country.

In October 2023, an investigation by Down To Earth (DTE) and the Centre for Science and Environment found several problems like the lack of robust monitoring, overestimation of emission reduction as well as lack of ownership of carbon credits, among others, with the voluntary carbon market in India. The report calls for transparency in the market, deciding clear objectives of such a market and designing rules accordingly.

Meanwhile, Munda also said the Accreditation Protocol of Agroforestry Nurseries will strengthen the institutional arrangements for the production and certification of planting material on a large scale to promote agroforestry in the country.

He asked all stakeholders to adopt it so that quality planting material can provide assured returns and the objectives and goals of the National Agroforestry Policy can be achieved.

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