BY SOLOMON DIBABA
Some years have elapsed since Ethiopia has recognized the need to link development with environmental concerns. In 2011, the country launched a Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy (CRGE) which charted out the foundation for integrated planning on climate-resilient green development in which Ethiopia aimed to achieve middle-income status by 2025.
The CRGES set the basis not only for the promotion of carbon free economic development but also served as a springboard from which Ethiopia shaped its regional and global participation on the issues of climate change and building climate change resilient economy.
Ethiopia has found out that it cannot follow the old strategy of the pervious regimes nor can it directly copy from the conventional development policies that the so called developed countries had followed. This has already resulted in a sharp increase in green house gas emissions and unreliable way of using the natural resources of the country.
Suffice to mention the recurrent drought and El-Nino/ La-Nina induced climate change, affecting the people and livestock , for instance, in Borena Zone, Oromia State and in parts of Somali State.
For Ethiopia, the issue of tackling climate change in an integrated manner is not just a programmatic undertaking but a matter of survival for the nation. Prior to 1991, the nation’s forest coverage stood only at 4 percent. Over the last three decades, however, the country’s forest coverage has grown to about 15 per cent.
Apart from forest resources, the country has 12 river basin systems that it can use to generate carbon free and renewable energy resources. The nation has considerable geothermal (7,000 MW) and wind resources (1,350GW) yet to be exploited. The solar energy resources of the country (2.199 million TWh/ annum) have so far not been touched. The diversity and the natural basis of the country’s renewable energy resources provides Ethiopia with a comparative advantage of access to cheaper, clean and sustained energy sources.
For over 15 years now, Ethiopia has been building GERD as the biggest renewable energy source not only for the country but also to export electric power to the neighboring countries like Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya.
Moreover, Ethiopia developed a national strategy document for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD +). This was a comprehensive strategy “which will be implemented within Ethiopia’s CRGE Strategy framework that sets out that by 2025, Ethiopia will become a middle-income country, resilient to climate change impacts and with a zero net increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. REDD+ contributes to the achievement of the CRGE targets through improved management of forests and agricultural areas.”(National REDD+ Strategy, 2014).
Embedded within the Green Growth strategy REDD+ is one of the four selected fast-track programs to support ambitions set in the forestry, energy and other land use sectors. Ethiopia considers REDD+ as an opportunity and viable source of sustainable finance for investment, forest management, forest conservation, and forest restoration to enhance multiple benefits of forests, including but not limited to biodiversity conservation, watershed management, increased resilience to climate change, improved livelihoods and reduced poverty.
Addressing deforestation and forest degradation and supporting sustainable forest management conserves water resources and prevents flooding, reduces run-off, controls soil erosion, reduces river siltation, protects fisheries and investments in hydropower facilities, preserves biodiversity and preserves cultures and traditions. With all that at stake it is clear what has to happen. With all the services that forests provide both to humanity and the natural world, there is now widespread understanding that forests are indeed critically important to human livelihood. It has now become obvious that forests are more important if retained, than cut. Out of that understanding has come the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
Forestry is one of the main pillars of the economy to develop an environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economy through protecting and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem services, including as carbon stocks, this brings the country at middle income status with NetZero emission by 2030. Forestry has an abatement potential of 130MtCO2e and contributing significantly towards achieving a carbon neutral economy.
As Ethiopia’s vulnerability to climate change has become obvious, planting seedlings every year has become a regular national practice since 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a National Green Development Legacy which has now been going on for over 4 years.
Ethiopia’s dedication to climate action in Africa provided an unparalleled means of raising the profile of the issue both at home, in Africa and at the global level providing a foundation for more effective climate based diplomatic engagement in the continent. Indeed, Ethiopia’s contribution in this respect is part of the pan African economic integration envisaged by the AU.
Pan African continental efforts to tackle climate change took a step forward in 2009 when the African Union’s Assembly of Heads of State and Government established the Conference of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).
Spearheading the regional effort, Ethiopia became one of the ten original member states of CAHOSCC, along with Algeria, the Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa.
The original purpose of CAHOSCC was to give political guidance to the technical negotiators and develop common positions across the African continent in preparation for COP15 in Copenhagen. The Ethiopian delegation to the conference unleashed very effective climate diplomacy among African countries to promote effective negotiations on the Paris Climate Accord.
Moreover, Ethiopia worked to increase the region’s influence in the international decision-making process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). CAHOSCC continues to serve as the high-level segment for the African Union’s climate change negotiators and led the formulation of the group’s positions ahead of the Paris Agreement.
It is to be recalled that Ethiopia chaired the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) which is an international cooperation group for developing countries highly vulnerable to climate change. Since its foundation in 2009, the CVF has come to include 48 member states from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.
Ethiopia is also exerting every effort towards the implementation of item 7 of Agenda 2063 which calls for environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities.
The country also addressed climate change planning at the regional level through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which comprised of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. Through IGAD, these nations have begun preparing a regional climate change strategy for the period 2016 to 2030 to harmonize national efforts to adhere to low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development. Last year as part of the country’s climate diplomacy efforts, Ethiopia distributed more than 2 billion tree seedlings to Kenya and Djibouti to promote forestry in East Africa.
Ethiopia’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has regional implications since the country exports energy generated from hydropower to Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya, and plans to export to additional nations.
Integrating climate change into regional development planning can also address national security issues at the heart of climate diplomacy. There is a risk, for example, that climate change could exacerbate regional instability by causing more frequent droughts, with associated costs in terms of food insecurity, access to water and lost assets in Africa.
As a significant number of refugees enter Ethiopia from neighboring Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea, they settle temporarily in the lowland escarpment near forested areas. The resulting increase in demand for fuel wood, charcoal and other forest products can lead to rapid deforestation. Adopting an integrated regional approach to such issues can help address the underlying causes of instability.
Ethiopia’s stance on linking climate change issues with its national development programs allowed it to commit to the Paris Agreement with a timely and ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which put pressure on other nations to respond in kind. Ethiopia was the twelfth nation to submit an INDC and the first LDC to do so. The country was praised as a model of ambition in the international negotiations.
Ethiopia’s INDC pledges a net greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 64 per cent from business as usual by 2030. And its strong presence in international climate negotiations representing Africa offer a number of lessons for African countries seeking to project greater influence in global climate politics.