G20 Summit- What should be India’s agenda?

A revived thrust on climate conundrum along with a dominant strategy for agriculture should top the priority list of all the concerned countries in the G-20 meeting at Hamburg, Germany.

G-20 2017

Image Credit: WHO

Twelfth G-20 Summit will be held on 7th and 8th July, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. It’s a premier forum for economic cooperation and to discuss the challenges faced by its member countries. There are many pressing issues which the member countries including India would want to address at the Summit. But it is important to prioritize the issues. Agriculture is one such issue which cannot wait. India’s agricultural economy is in a deep crisis, if not addressed urgently can have dire environmental, societal and economic implications.

State of Indian agriculture

Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which ranks 25 countries according to the sustainability of their food systems, is a quantitative and qualitative measure. It measures the sustainability across three pillars- food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. India was ranked 25th in 2016 with a score of 43.17 (out of 100). The most notable defects faced by India’s food system are- unsustainable use of groundwater, low quality agricultural subsidies and poor nutritional status.

India is the biggest consumer of groundwater in the world. Agriculture has started to threaten the water supplies. Though the record of water irrigation is not very impressive and there has been a decline in surface irrigation, the increasing use of tube well irrigation has led to depletion of ground water. Groundwater Development Index, which measures ratio of groundwater consumed to groundwater recharged is just 60% in India.
It was claimed that the use of Genetically Modified (GM) varieties can help India overcome the agricultural crisis. In reality, it has worsened the agricultural scenario. Use of GM varieties has eventually led to an increase in the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides which has in turn polluted the already depleting groundwater and soil.

As per the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), all the countries especially the developed ones need to limit the extent of support given to agriculture by reducing their subsidies (which can distort trade and production). To think that developed countries are not giving subsidies to their farmers is a myth. Their current stance can be termed as box shifting, that is, subsidies have moved from being direct to indirect. These subsidies do have trade distorting effects and hit the poor farmers in our country. Food security is one of the most severe challenges faced by us today.

Deep linkages of agriculture and environment

The correlation between agriculture and environment is robust. The resources of the country are under great strain due to the negative environmental impact of agriculture. India also received the lowest scores under FSI for overall greenhouse gas emission with sources including machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, soil erosion etc. India contributed 6.3% of global C02 in 2015 and its carbon emission from burning fossil fuel increased by 5.2 % in the same year. Paris Climate Agreement, which aims at cooperating towards the common aim of developing climate friendly, efficient and sustainable solution for expanding energy needs and other areas of sustainable development, is a crucial agreement for India in many ways. In order to revive agriculture and make it sustainable, it is essential to adopt agricultural practices that curb climate change; and agriculture has a huge unrealized potential to mitigate climate change. To realize that potential and increase the resilience of this sector, India needs to push for the agreement at the Summit.

India is not the only country trying to solve this complex puzzle of dealing with agricultural and environmental issues. Least developed countries (LDCs) and developing countries like Argentina, China, Brazil, Indonesia and most of the African countries are in the same fix. A revived thrust on climate conundrum along with a dominant strategy for agriculture should top the priority list of all the concerned countries in Hamburg. A united effort at negotiations is the need of the hour.

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