Fears for farming and trade stopped India signing COP26 forest, methane pledges

Women worship a cow, an animal held sacred by Hindu beliefs, to seek blessing for their male child during Bach Baras festival in Ajmer, India August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Himanshu Sharma

NEW DELHI, Nov 3 (Reuters) - India did not sign the COP26 pledge to stop deforestation and cut methane gas emissions by 2030 because of its concerns over the impact on trade, on the country's vast farm sector, and the role of livestock in the rural economy, officials said.

At the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders on Tuesday pledged to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to help slow climate change. read more

Agriculture accounts for over 15% of India's $2.7 trillion economy and employs almost half of the country's more than 1.3 billion people.

Around two-thirds of Indians live in the countryside and India's large livestock population is central to the country's agriculture and its village economy.

That makes reducing methane emissions, generated by cows' digestive systems and manure, a major challenge.

Forestry in itself is less of an issue for India, but the country was troubled by a clause in the COP26 declaration that could limit trade, two government officials who asked not to be identified said.

"Since our international trade is increasingly becoming a big part of our economy, we clearly did not want any clause on trade," said one official. "We did not want any mention of trade because our stand is that any commitment to the environment and climate change should not involve any reference to trade."

As India is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), any trade-related matter should only be looked into by the WTO, the second official said.

Besides India, China and Russia have also not signed the pledge that calls for efforts to cut emissions of methane by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Neha Arora; editing by Barbara Lewis

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