Flame of hopeBiogas can help contribute to climate change mitigation, adaptation and support households
The continuous change in climate is a burgeoning issue as it has led the living beings inside earth to face serious threats. This makes adaptation and mitigation measures to climate change in the agricultural sector and allied sectors a major challenge today and in the future. Around the world, governments, communities and related stakeholders are adopting innovative measures that are improving the lives of millions by trying to reducing the impacts of climate change.
During the recent years, longer drought periods during the monsoon season, increased temperature, unseasonal heavy rains during winter and unexpected natural calamities have caused serious distress to agriculture-dependent communities in many locations. If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of ending poverty, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture are to be realised, interventions for climate change adaptation need to be earnestly implemented.
Humans throughout history have been known to adopt to their environment by developing innovative solutions, practices and cultures suited to local conditions. However, climate change raises the possibility that existing societies will experience climatic shifts (in temperature, storm frequency, flooding and other factors) that previous experience has not prepared them for.
In recent years, a new wave of excitement has entered kitchens of many households in Nepal with the introduction of biogas plants. Many experts and climate enthusiasts have been hailing its role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Biogas is a sustainable and alternative source of energy which can be used without degrading the environment. Owing to their emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), traditional cooking fuels like dung cakes and firewood have contributed significantly to global warming and climate change .
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), over the period of 1880 to 2012, globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data shows a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C. According to the Ministry of Environment’s 2010 data, in Nepal, the mean annual temperature is estimated to have increased by 0.06°C, and is projected to increase by another 1.2°C by 2030 compared to a pre-2000 baseline. Similarly, precipitation pattern is changing differently in different regions too.
Amidst this, biogas development practice strongly combines climate change mitigation and livelihoods improvement. It has emerged as a viable and promising alternative as it offers health, environmental, agricultural and economic benefit through reduced deforestation, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and carbon trading that increases the adaptive capacity against climate change and its mitigation, which is now a global issue. Utilisation of biomass based energy resources through appropriate technological interventions has become very important for environmental conservation and sustainable rural development. In Nepal, there have been consolidated effort by various organisations and individuals to Promote and develop the biogas sector.
One of the projects working for climate change adaptation and mitigation has helped to install biogas over Nepal where many rural communities have been benefitted. The first biogas unit in Madhuban (a village of mid western Nepal) sparked a lot of curiosity among the villagers, especially with the women.
Bhimmaya, one of the female farmer of Madhuban was amazed at how quickly food cooked over the biogas flame. She was equally surprised at how clean and smoke-free the kitchen and house was as well.
With her wood-fuelled stove she had been spending six-hours-a-day cooking. The smoke emanating from the food cooked with firewood practically engulfed the entire house, leading to lots of respiratory and eye illnesses for the family. She recounted that after installing a biogas plant, she and her husband now no longer have to spend hours in the forest in search of firewood to cook the next meal. She was also happy about the fact that she had to work less in the kitchen and eventually has gotten the time to spend with her children too.
At the international level, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1992, Kyoto Protocol 1997 and Copenhagen 2009 too have declared their main agenda was reducing the anthropogenic emissions of GHGs. Nepal’s greenhouse gases emission—0.025 percent of the global total emission, is negligible compared to compared to global statistics. Utilisation of biomass based energy resources through appropriate technological interventions can remarkably help in environmental conservation as well as in sustainable development. It helps in mitigating climate directly through reduced GHG emissions and indirectly through reduced deforestation. It also offers several benefits such as health, environmental, agricultural and economic benefit through reduced deforestation and carbon trading. As climate change has been threating communities and the planet alike, policy makers need to promote biogas technology to combat the increasing global temperatures.
Thapa is the Regional Exchange Coordinator at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science