Ethiopia has inarguably taken the lead in the implementation of Climate-Resilient Green Economy to protect itself from the adverse effects of climate change with significant resources being deployed towards reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The key success stories are in afforestation and land rehabilitation; generation and distribution of electricity from clean and renewable sources and investment in improved transportation systems.
As many countries took time to weigh the consequences of signing the Paris Agreement on climate change, Ethiopia was decisive and was among the first signatories to the Agreement, committing to cut carbon emissions by 64% by 2030. Since then, it has not looked back. Leading from the front, the government has pressed ahead with ambitious development plans, and clean energy is the core of the mission.
COMESA Climate Change Advisor, Dr Mclay Kanyangarara, describes Ethiopia as having the most ambitious climate change response strategies on the African continent.
“Achieving a 64% reduction in GHG emissions in 15 years is a mammoth undertaking by any standard. The cornerstone of their strategy is to substitute fossil fuels with clean renewable energy for transport, industry, household use etc. coupled with a most ambitious and aggressive tree planting programme to remove and store carbon dioxide,” he notes adding, “The country is on course as all the promised interventions have been started and they are not so much seeking aid to achieve their targets.”
According to a status report on Ethiopia, the country’s plan and action to mitigate GHG emissions is built on four pillars; improving crop and livestock production practices for greater food security and higher farmer incomes while reducing emissions. The others are protecting and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem services, while sequestering significant amounts of carbon dioxide and increasing the carbon stocks in landscapes.
Expanding electric power generation from renewable sources and leapfrogging to modern and energy efficient technologies in transport, industry and building sectors are the other core pillars.
The forestry sector is perhaps where Ethiopia has had the greatest shine with a major national reforestation programme of planting four billion trees in 2019. A more ambitious target of five billion trees by 2020 is underway with the ultimate aim of reducing land degradation. The government and different programmes in the forestry sector are also promoting fuel-efficient and alternative-energy sources to improve ecosystem services and increase carbon sequestration in forests and woodlands.
In the Agriculture sector several large-scale sustainable development programmes are ongoing to building resilience to climate change in the natural resources sub-sector. They include community mobilization integrated watershed management campaign and a sustainable land management programme. The Agriculture Growth Programme is being used to promote lowland wheat production in arid and semi-arid areas through small, medium, and large-scale irrigation schemes to increase crop production and reduce the pressure on forests.
In the Energy sector, the country is ramping-up development of its massive hydro-power potential estimated to be 15,000 – 30,000 MW, which is one of the highest in Africa. Billions of dollars have been ploughed into mega projects such as the Grand Renaissance Dam, which will be the largest dam in Africa, and the newly inaugurated Gibe III Dam.
The report states that maximizing energy efficiency allows for green development of other sectors of the economy, such as the replacement of trucks by electric rail or diesel pumps by electric pumps for irrigation that enabled the sectors to reduce their GHG emissions.
Ethiopia shares its green development to other countries in the region to replace electricity generated from fossil fuels, which has significantly higher average costs and GHG emissions. To reduce emissions from solid and liquid waste, Ethiopia constructed a waste-to-energy plant, a first in Africa. The plant incinerates 1,400 tons of waste every day, which is about 80 per cent of its resident city’s waste .
An electric rail network powered by renewable energy has substituted fossil fuel powered road transport in the country thus leapfrogging to modern and energy efficient technologies in transport.