SRI and Climate Change
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Exploring the Role of SRI and Nationally Determined Contributions for Climate Action


"Commitments to net zero are worth zero without the plans, policies and actions to back it up. Our world cannot afford any more greenwashing, fake movers or late movers… We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all." António Guterres
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is beginning to receive the international recognition it deserves. Since the end of 2022 a total of eleven countries have chosen to include SRI as a mitigation or adaptation action in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

But what are NDCs and why is SRI an important feature for them? 

In this blog post, we will explore: 

  • What NDCs are
  • Why SRI is a relevant action to include within NDCs
  • Which countries are using SRI as part of their NDCs
  • What countries are pledging around SRI

What is an NDC?

NDC stands for Nationally Determined Contribution.

An NDC is the climate action plan a country puts forward to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stating the ways they will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their plans adapt to climate impacts. 

NDCs were born as part of the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015 during COP 21. This COP in Paris marked a milestone in international action and cooperation on climate change when 194 (193 States plus the European Union) out of 198 parties signed the Paris Agreement, each committing to its central aim of keeping global warming below 2°C, with a preferable target of 1.5°C.

NDCs are the foundation for meeting the Paris Agreement target. Each party must submit an NDC and update it every five years. NDCs provide a way of monitoring global progress on climate action and by assessing all the parties’ NDCs, we can determine whether we are on track to limit global warming. Explore the Climate Target Tracker here.

Are current NDCs on target to achieve the Paris Agreement? 

Sadly, not yet. The current pledges in country NDCs are not sufficient to limit warming to 2°C. Projections using the current NDCs estimate warming to be limited to around 3°C. The difference of 1 degree  may not sound like much to us in our daily lives - but the smallest changes in global temperatures have enormous repercussions on the planet - reaching 3°C will have catastrophic results. See a projected scenario for three degrees of global warming here.  

What are unconditional and conditional pledges?

Each country has varying domestic capabilities and contexts for action. Some countries will therefore attach conditions to the implementation of certain contributions. For example, a country may require international support through finance, resources, capacity or knowledge to enact the action necessary. This is known as a conditional contribution. Unconditional contributions are what countries can implement based on their own resources and capacity. For example Benin have pledged to develop 22,000 ha unconditionally of rice growing areas with irrigated water control, and conditionally 30,000 ha. International finance and support is required to support Benin’s development of the 30,000 ha conditional pledge. 

Why is SRI relevant to country NDCs?

SRI is a practical and attractive option for rice producing countries to reduce the GHG emissions associated with rice cultivation and adapt to climate impacts. Rice cultivation is a significant source of methane emissions and is responsible for around 12% of global anthropogenic methane emissions - and around 1.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. To put this in perspective, this puts rice cultivation not far behind the global aviation industry which accounts for around 2.1% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. 

But unlike flying, cutting rice from our life is not an option. Calories, unlike flying, are a necessity to staying alive and rice provides around one fifth of all calories consumed worldwide. On top of that rice holds an enormous traditional and cultural value for billions of people.

The good news is though, we don't need to eat less rice, we just need to change the way we grow it.

Step forward, SRI.

By reducing flooded fields and chemical inputs, SRI can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or more per kilogram of rice produced and methane emissions by up to 70%. On top of that, SRI improves a farmer’s climate resilience against droughts, storms and extreme weather all while helping to produce more rice from less. Read more on the benefits of SRI here

Which countries are using SRI in their NDCs?

Currently, eleven countries include SRI in their NDCs. 

Seven countries using SRI as a mitigation action are: 
  1. Dominican Republic
  2. Mali 
  3. Senegal 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire 
  5. Viet Nam
  6. Madagascar
  7. Ghanna

Six countries use SRI as an adaptation action: 
  1. Benin 
  2. Burkina Faso 
  3. Cambodia 
  4. Laos PDR 
  5. Myanmar 
  6. Togo 

What have these countries pledged in their NDCs regarding SRI?

SRI provides an array of benefits so each country has its own purposes for utilising SRI as a mitigation or adaptation action. SRI can support national food security, climate resilience, water conservation, biodiversity protection as well as mitigating methane emissions.

Here are some examples of what the eleven countries have pledged regarding rice and SRI in their agricultural sectors:

Mitigation Actions: 
  • The Dominican Republic has pledged to convert 30,000 ha of rice production to SRI to reduce emissions and increase food security, specifically in the Yaque del Norte and Yuna watersheds. 
  • Mali is focusing on SRI and particularly the production and use of organic manure in order to reduce methane and N2O emissions. Mali also pledge to strengthen the strategic positioning of women in all links in the value-chain, which SRI also supports.  
  • Senegal seeks to increase exports by 2023, which includes achieving 2,100,000 tons of paddy rice. Specifically Senegal seeks to convert 28,500 ha of irrigated rice to SRI for reductions in methane emissions and water consumption. 
  • Côte d'Ivoire has committed to: An unconditional commitment of 50% of rice cultivation practiced under SRI; A conditional commitment of 90% of rice cultivation practiced under SRI 
  • Viet Nam has pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 and reducing 15.8% of total GHG emissions (unconditional) and 43.5% (conditional) by 2030. Within the agriculture sector, Viet Nam has three main GHG emission reduction priorities (1. Rumen digestion; 2. Organic fertiliser management; 3. Rice cultivation). SRI is one of the farming technologies they state to use to achieve their emission pledges in the rice sector.
  • Madagascar has pleged to implement SRI in order to further reduce GHG emissions, and considers it one of its top priorities during the 2020s.
  • Ghana has also identified the potential for SRI to reduce its GHG emissions, noting it as one of four options to improve its agricultural sector in this regard. By Ghana's own estimates by 2030 implementing SRI could reduce Co2 emissions by billions of tonnes.
Adaptation Actions: 
  • Benin, as part of their Agricultural Diversification Project ‘PADA’, have chosen SRI as a technology to promote improved rice production. Benin has also pledged the mitigation action to develop water control for 52,000 ha (including both conditional and unconditional NDCs) of area that can be used for irrigated rice cultivation, which SRI can support. 
  • Burkina Faso have pledged to develop 35,000 ha of lowlands and irrigated areas under SRI 
  • Cambodia are seeking to scale up climate-resilient crop production. Their aim is to increase rice productivity by 3% each year, from the initial 11.51 million tonne from the 2020 baseline. SRI is one of the chosen technologies to promote for increased and environmentally friendly production. 
  • Laos PDR report piloting climate smart agriculture techniques including SRI. In their newest NDC update, Laos PDR have pledged to achieve 50,000 ha adjusted water management practices in lowland rice cultivation by 2030.
  • Myanmar: Myanmar pledge to implement climate-smart agricultural interventions to support climate adaptation, SRI is a key component. 
  • Togo have pledged to promote SRI to lower GHG emissions and reduce water consumption.

SRI can accelerate climate action through NDCs

NDCs can vary greatly in their ambition and quantified action. To make NDCs meaningful there must be increased effort to include quantified measures with ways to monitor, report and verify the reductions. There is enormous potential in the global rice sector to greatly increase scope and ambition. The annual global mitigation potential for rice is estimated at 171 MT CO2e, however, currently only 20.6 MtCO2e is accounted for in the current NDCs (See the CCAFS Info Note here). 

Major rice producing countries around the world - for example, China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, Brazil and Pakistan - could set bolder targets for their rice production and include SRI as part of their NDC pledges. It's worth noting that these countries are already using SRI without having it explicitly mentioned in their NDCs (Explore SRI locations here). However, by including SRI in national action plans this can help in multiple ways to accelerate climate action and impact. NDCs can foster collaboration between countries to achieve shared objectives as well as create incentives for non-state actors to take action on climate change. This can help to improve the ease and accessibility of SRI uptake around the world.

SRI is an attractive option to include in national agricultural policies due to its economic incentives and high environmental and social returns. Countries can improve climate resilience and food security for their nation while accelerating tangible progress in achieving global emission reduction targets. 

SRI-2030's goal is to reach 50 million hectares of SRI by 2030. In doing so this can reduce net GHG emissions by 1.4Gt of CO2e by 2030 meaning by 2050 8.5Gt of CO2e can be avoided. On top of this 1 billion tons extra of rice can be produced and an additional $1.6 trillion in farmer profits.

For further information: 

See the official NDC Registry here.

Read about Policy Action for SRI here.

Watch the SRI-2030 videos here on how SRI is supporting climate action.

Demonstrating the difference between conventionally grown rice (left side) and rice grown under SRI methods (right side).
SRI plants are larger and healthier with stronger deeper root systems, better able to withstand climate impacts.
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