INTERVIEW: Ethiopia aims for climate neutrality by 2025

by Elias Gebreselassie | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Sunday, 22 March 2015 07:01 GMT

Country wants to use clean energy to power growth

Kare Chawicha heads Ethiopia’s Ministry of Environment and Forest. The ministry has a key role in trying to harmonise the country’s push for rapid economic growth with efforts to protect and conserve Ethiopia’s environment.

TRF: How have Ethiopia’s efforts at building a “green economy” fared since they were launched more than four years ago?

Chawicha: Our ministry is responsible for coordination and leading of the climate green economy across sectors and across national level (with the aim to) align environmental issues with our development activities.

We’ve been creating awareness at federal level, regional level and donor-community level, and have developed institutions such as a climate financing mechanism at a national level. We call it the Climate Resilient Green Economy Facility, situated at Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

TRF: One of the issues facing Ethiopia is deforestation. What is your ministry doing to stem this problem?

Chawicha: We’re carrying out a number of activities in which communities are the implementers and the beneficiaries. More than 30 million people are working 30-40 days each year in natural resource conservation activities, such as planting trees.

We’ve addressed deforestation and land degradation by improving access to efficient energy, including off-grid energy for both agricultural and pastoral communities.

This will reduce wood consumption at a household level. We’re also focusing on tree planting activities as part of agro-forestry efforts, to benefit farmers who engage in it.

We’re measuring our actual forest cover nationally this year; previous measures were estimates.

TRF: In its drive for industrialisation, Ethiopia is attracting traditionally high polluting industries, among them leather, textiles and metals. What’s your ministry doing to stem this pollution?

Chawicha: We’re attracting many manufacturing businesses, especially from foreign investors. But we have clear policy. Ethiopia isn’t a dumping site for old technologies and materials.

Our strategy says industry should develop on a clean pathway. They must use renewable energy and the technology has to be up-to-date and non-polluting.

TRF: As the population of Ethiopia grows, people are using more charcoal for heating and also buying more cars. What’s your ministry doing to deal with pollution caused by urbanisation and changing lifestyles?

Chawicha: We’re working to have well-planned cities, with solid and liquid waste drainage and waste management systems.

On transport, we’re no longer focusing on developing fossil fuel transport, but are replacing that with buses and railroads using renewable energy. We’re taking these policy measures not only at the local level but connecting them with other countries in the region, with an eye on regional integration.

TRF: More than 80 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas, often on small degraded plots. What’s your ministry doing to help farmers avoid damaging the soil further?

Chawicha: Lifestyles are changing. The educated population is increasing and modern farming, small and micro enterprises, are popping up which are linked with manufacturing industries. This is job linkage and creation at a local level, which accompanies the nation’s urbanisation.

Beyond that, we are shifting the agricultural focus, using different irrigation schemes so that degraded farmland is used sustainably to improve household incomes.

TRF: What is the medium-term goal of your ministry?

Chawicha: Our medium-term goal is to have Ethiopia within the next decade attain middle income status but with an economy that’s climate resilient and in which the major economic sectors are green. This will use renewable energy, a reason Ethiopia is constructing hydro-dams for energy generation as well as using wind, geothermal and solar. (The goal is) middle income status by 2025, with a carbon neutral economy.  

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