Ethiopia and Climate Change

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

The Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority (EEPA) is the Federal institution for managing the Environment of Ethiopia. EEPA is responsible in ensuring the realization of the environmental rights, goals, objectives and basic principles enshrined in the Constitution. EEPA is also responsible for coordinating appropriate measures, establishing systems, and for developing programs and mechanisms for the welfare of humans as per the Environment Policy of Ethiopia, in addition to the safety of the environment.
It is mandated to formulate or initiate and coordinate the formulation of strategies, policies, laws and standards as well as procedures and up on approval monitor and enforce their implementation. It is also responsible for the synergistic implementation and follow-up of international and regional environmental agreements.
With all these mandates on its plate, Capital reached out to EEPA head, Getahun Garedew (PhD) for insights on policies, carbon trading and overall participation of Ethiopia on climate change issues amongst other issues ahead of COP27. Excerpts;

Capital: What is your evaluation of the overall climate change policies of the country?

Getahun Garedew: Our climate change policy directly engages different sectors of which the climate resilience green economy strategy remains integral. This strategy engages different sectors such as agriculture, transport, energy and so on. Additionally it helps us to integrate these different sectors together for better results. For example, energy and agriculture goes hand in hand as the agriculture sector needs energy for say irrigation. If energy becomes expensive agriculture becomes expensive too. If our energy is pollutant, our agriculture can be pollutant too. Transportation is also knitted to agriculture as we deliver our production using transport which uses energy; thus there is an evident cycle.
I believe that we have a more comprehensive policy as a nation to which the implementation is also good.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

In recent times we have been taking certain measures including the 10 years plan, national green legacy, promoting electric vehicles that can reduce carbon emissions both in adaptation and mitigation of which these efforts are showing good results. The issue may be that we need to adopt a new legal binding law which may compromise all these activities.
It can be said that we have been doing and are still doing practical climate investments. We have our national determinant contribution plan, that is, a climate action plan to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. This is based on both conditional and unconditional plans as climate change is a global issue. The so called conditional plan is planed based on the money and conditions westerners promised to pledge to reduce climate change impact as Ethiopia’s role in the global climate change is near to the ground. Again we have the unconditional plan if the promises are not kept we will continue to grow in a good manner that will not have an impact to the environment.
At the same time we are participating in different climate change negotiating groups by considering Ethiopia’s priorities on climate change.
Climate change negotiations are group negotiations, however, more than any of these, we always depend on going with plans which can go with the nation’s capacity, potential and sectors strategy and even our ten-year plan is also done based on this.

Capital: There are comments that indicate the overall participation of Ethiopia on climate change issues in the globe are decreasing. What’s your response to these?

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Getahun Garedew: The issue of climate change cannot be dedicated only for one institution especially in a developing country like Ethiopia.
The so called climate change action plan should be planned at different sectors with coordination coming to one organization. So we have to have preparations, changes and activities by considering these. And one part to this is increasing practical level engagements.
We can say that our practical engagement is increasing from time to time. For example planting 25 billion trees annually is huge. This alone can be greater than the total forest count of lots of countries. This is what practical engagement is.
With regards to negotiation it is not that much effective since negotiating alone on a climate change stage can’t be fought alone, so to speak. So, for us strengthening our group engagement remains vital.
For instance a couple of month ago we hosted the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) summit and also last week we participated on the African Environmental Protection Ministerial Conference to which we look forward to hosting them next year. We have also chaired Least Developed Countries Negotiators and AGN.
On a wider view, the issue may seem that we are not effective since at the base the action plan is distributed in different sectors and only coordination is dedicated to us, and with that it’s difficult to shine out. May be the other cause can be because this leadership positions usually rotate to other countries, so the impact might not be evident. However, it should be well understood that it is not because we have decreased our engagement but it is because of the way the system is run.

Capital: How is the preparation for Cop27 summit ferrying on?

Getahun Garedew: We are currently on a good stage of extensive preparation. We are not aiming for a personalized summit where only our issues are raised but rather the issues of the whole of Africa.
We are working round the clock to ensure the issues raised are inclusive and not that of the select few countries and we hope to have a platform where visible change will be seen.
Of course there will be different side events on different issues such as water, and we are ready for that too, since as a country we are not afraid of any issues if they arise. However, we believe we will not be dragged to this issue. That’s why we are engaging with different groups which have similar intentions.
Climate change is a multilateral negotiation not bilateral of course there will be bilateral negotiations on mitigation, adaptation and finance too.
The other thing is that we hope the stage will not be political driven, rather scientifically driven and our preparations stem from this.
Additionally, the issues are about implementation. There are lots of promises, and enough paper or legal preparations. So what we want in Africa COP is for the implementation of promises, to be the ‘Action COP’. No more pledges and other round of negotiations or promises. The negotiation should be on implementation.

Capital: How will the participation look like?

Getahun Garedew: There will be three levels of participants. The first one will be the head of state of governments, followed by a ministerial participation to which there is a committee established under the Prime Minister’s Office. Last but certainly not least, is the technical level engagement which will continue through our office, EEPA.
For us, we are now engaging on about 18 issues that can benefit our country based on our human resource and we are doing so by engaging different Ethiopian professionals.
And in the near future, we will see which ministry will be engaged on the ministerial level and which leader will participate as head of the state.

Capital: What is the current status of Ethiopia’s carbon trading?

Getahun Garedew: We cannot tell the exact stage of the process, since the carbon market is still on process.
We have been using the clean development mechanism when selling the Humbo Carbon.
Currently, there are three modalities, based on the Paris agreement article 6, that is, bilateral, market mechanism and non-market mechanism.
Here the main issue is that we have been processing using the old mechanism of the clean development mechanism (CDM). When the Paris agreement came, we were about to receive our payment so our negotiation here is to make CDM part of article 6, to finish our projects which we started using CDM to be completed by article 6 as transition.
We are working with countries which have similar intention and so far things are looking good and we expect good results.

Capital: How is the implementation of both the unconditional and conditional NDC plans of Ethiopia going?

Getahun Garedew: Unconditional plans are almost achieving more than 100 percent, and each sector is contributing their role. In just ten years, the Ethiopian government has spent more than 500 billion birr for climate change related issues.
However the conditional plans have been lagging behind since the promises set have not been backed on the ground. The pledges were in overall 100 billion USD, but have not hit the ground maybe because of other focuses such as the pandemic and the Russia- Ukraine war. For us however, we should focus on adaptation as opposed to mitigation as it is more beneficial in the long run. We are pushing for at least half of the pledge to go towards and we believe the groups will have a strong negotiating capacity to achieve this on the Cop27.

Capital: Recently, the Alliance For Food Sovereignty In Africa (AFSA) held its summit on Africa’s ‘ROADMAP TO ADAPTATION THROUGH AGROECOLOGY’, to which you participated. How did you find the session?

Getahun Garedew: The main goal of the summit was the conceptualization of food security which signals that even though you have huge per capita income that does not necessarily translate to being self-sufficient in food.
Of course a good citation of issues can be seen by the challenges faced in the pandemic lockdown and the ripple effect in the well established countries following the Russia- Ukraine war, which led to huge food crisis.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

So we cannot be sure on food security just because we have a huge economy since there are both human made and natural crises that can challenge countries’ food self sufficiency.
Beyond that as an Africa continent, there is also the dependency factor from the West, to which viable means of becoming self sufficient was looked into at the summit.
The meeting also focused on expanding agriculture and farming using agroecology, which goes hand in hand with nature and the environment. It was noted that as Africans we ought to expand agriculture /farming based on agroecology, which can protect the environment bring forth better production down the road.
Usually on agriculture productivity, one of the main negative impacts of commercialization is that in our context only planting the same grain on farmlands can make the farm land lose its productivity and fertility.
For instance, in the horticulture sector most of the flower producing lands cannot be used for other plants so it is difficult to turn it to other production due to chemicals used in the production which changes its nature. So the summit was gearing towards more of an agroecology approach as opposed the regular commercial approach.

Capital: Is there anything you want to add?

Getahun Garedew: I want to emphasize that we will continue to strengthen our engagements, and our diplomats are also working a lot in promoting Ethiopia’s practices so that climate change issues cannot be given to one organization.