Confronting the Effect of Climate Change in Ethiopia

(Tesfagebriel Tekola – Lecturer at Mekelle University)

More than 80 percent of Ethiopians, or more than 80 million people, live in the rural part of the country and depend on climate sensitive sector, which is agriculture. The Ethiopian government is also committed to develop the country’s coping and averting ability of the man-made crisis from hampering agricultural production and disrupting livelihoods. Various national and international media have covered how Ethiopia and its neighboring countries are suffering from the drought caused because of absence of seasonal rain.

Recently, on July 18, a report by Washington Post claimed that climate change is threatening ancient way of life in Ethiopia, discussing how climate change caused drought is forcing the pastoralists in Somali region abandon the nomadic lifestyle and retreating to camps to receive food aid.

These days, climate change risks in our country seems to be a pressing worry for the policy makers. Climate change is commonly understood as the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Here is the paradox; Africa shares only 3.8 percent of the world’s emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, whereas china, USA, and EU contribute 23%, 19% and 13% respectively.

However; despite its very insignificant role in contributing to global warming, Africa is currently suffering from its severe consequences. Especially, Ethiopia is among the top 10 highly vulnerable countries to the dangerous effect of climate change (UNEP). The good thing is that, the country is not among the least prepared countries to systematically address the forthcoming threats across different sectors. Yet, the so-called developed world is still arguing whether climate change is a hoax or real.

Climate change have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires. According to a study by NASA, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 did not rise above 300 parts per million between the advent of human civilization roughly 10,000 years ago and 1900. Today it is at about 400 ppm, a level not reached in more than 400,000 years. This shows how manmade actions are making survival on earth very devastating. We are trying very hard to create a better world, but by jeopardizing its sustainability.

The danger of climate change is borderless and it needs all inclusive response. Flood, drought, storm, and high temperature make living difficult, as a result millions die or flee their home. In addition they become victim of terrorism and different human right violations. In the past 5 years 5 million people have lost their life because of disasters caused by climate change, according to Climate Vulnerability Monitor. The majority of deaths happened in the developing countries.

It is almost one year since a drought caused by a warming phenomenon in the Pacific, called El-nino, severely affected Ethiopia and several sub-Saharan countries. In Ethiopia, due to absence of the seasonal rain more than 10.2 million people were left in need of food aid, and the government has spent more than 8 billion birr to cope up with the drought. Moreover; 80 percent of Ethiopians still live in the countryside and depend on agriculture for living, 50 percent of Ethiopia’s national production and 60 percent of export production is dependent on agriculture, a sector which is highly vulnerable to the danger of climate change.

Ethiopia is the world’s fifth largest coffee producer and known for its distinct flavor, Arabica coffee. Nearly one quarter of Ethiopia’s total export earning is from coffee production. Beside, more than 15 million people depend on coffee farming for living. According to a study by published in the Nature Plants Journal, due to climate change, Ethiopia could lose up to 60 percent of its suitable farming land by the end of 21st century, and if the high temperature continues like this, Arabica coffee will become extinct from 90-100% until 2080. This clearly shows the magnitude of the country’s suffering because of what other countries are doing.

In order to reduce and cope up with the effect of climate change mitigation and adaptation are a commonly used terms. The Ethiopian government has prepared a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in which adaptation strategies in agricultural sector plays an important role. It has also been working with different stakeholders to implement its strong climate resilient green economy strategy (integrated in GTP II) to stabilize the country’s economic vulnerability to climate change.

Ethiopia has been paying greater effort towards the expansion of renewable energy for industry and transportation, and biogas. Various awareness creation programs regarding desertification and environment control through reforestation and afforestation movements have been taking place country wide. However; the country still requires better economic and technological capacity to better expand drought coping agricultural techniques, and have readymade equipment and products in case of emergency needs. In the next 20 years, Ethiopia has planned strong green economy building with cost of $150 billion, and to implement this, $7.5 billion per year is needed.

The local media need to play a paramount role in awareness creation, bringing support in terms of human resource and finance, provision of platform for strong knowledge sharing and discussions among officials, environmentalists, scientists, politicians, investors and other stakeholders.  The media should also assess whether the signed agreements and other regulations are being implemented or not, and major challenges faced. To implement the above discussed plans, huge amount of finance is needed.

The developed countries have promised to provide funds that would support the developing countries in the implementation adaptation strategies. In 2002, in Copenhagen, 10 countries, including the EU agreed to “Immediate climate change fund” $30 Billion. The developed countries also promised to give $100 Billion until 2020 to the developing countries for the purpose of green economy building. However, the countries did not live up to their promises according to IIED (Institute for International Environment Development). The process is also claimed to lack transparency and it is not directly given to the vulnerable countries.

To conclude; the developed countries need to support the developing countries’ adaptation strategies as per the global agreements including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, the developing countries better be not reliant on the supports, but have to find different financing methods by engaging the private sector and the society importantly.


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