Adefris Worku (PhD), is director of Climate Science Research at the Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute. He has conducted various research on climate change that has sbeen published on local and foreign journals. He blames the government for giving little attention to the forestry sector. Although schemes like carbon trading can have a positive impact on the country’s reforestation efforts, he stresses that it is only after the government focuses on the area that the nation can recover from the adverse impacts of climate change. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with him to further understand the issues the country is facing.
EBR: Ethiopia is one of the developing countries that have adopted the Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy. How effective do you think the strategy has been?
Adefris: CRGE turned the attention of the international community towards financing a green economy in Ethiopia. It also served as a political tool to change Ethiopia’s farmer image in the eyes of international donors, more so than any other diplomatic measure. At a national level, it raised every Ethiopian’s awareness of climate change threats. The awareness level might be behind Kenya’s, but the country is in a better place than it was 15 years ago. Policy makers, parliamentarians, and the general population are more conscious of climate issues.
Donors and bilateral cooperations like REDD plus, are financing environmental protection and forestry projects. Every investor has started including the risk analysis of rain, water and productivity in investment projects and the returns that it can bring. CRGE also led to the establishment of the Environment and Forest Research Institute, pushed universities to include curriculum on environmental issues, and led to the creation of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, which was recently made a commission instead of a ministry.
Under the CRGE, every sectoral institution has set numerical targets to reduce carbon emissions by at least half by 2030, from the forecasted 400 million tons. However, Ethiopia’s performance so far, even though it is encouraging, will not lead to the target being reached.
About 72,000 hectares of forest are destroyed annually in Ethiopia, down from 150,000 hectare ten years ago. On the other hand, only 20,000 hectares of forest are cultivated every year. The CRGE will be achieved when the reforestation rate is higher than deforestation, in addition to achieving targets in energy, transport and other sectors.
In terms of the attention given to climate change, what can be learned from the restructuring of the ministry into a commission?
At the ministry level, the institution would have had more power to negotiate policy issues with other stakeholders, and especially with members of the cabinet. It won’t have that opportunity after becoming a commission. However, since the commission reports to the Prime Minister, I believe there are still opportunities to do more.
Can modernizing the agriculture sector reduce deforestation?
If we could practically intensify agriculture, and increase productivity in small areas through using modern technologies, we could reduce the area damaged by farming significantly. Yet, the agriculture sector is still trying to increase production by increasing farm area at the expense of forests.
What is the impact of the carbon trading scheme on reforestation efforts in Ethiopia?
Carbon trading is quite tricky. There is a huge market but it is a volunteer market. It is also volatile. For instance, the amount of money pledged for a ton of carbon at a given time can reduce a lot in the near future. The carbon trade should not be the main incentive for the Ethiopian government to protect the country’s forest.
Can forestry become a viable investment option in Ethiopia?
Forestry can bring more returns on minimal investment in Ethiopia, more than any other country. For instance, the revenue an Ethiopian farmer can generate in five years from planting trees is higher than what he can earn from agriculture in 30 years. But nobody knows this business. Only a few farmers in the state of Amhara have realized this advantage. They are currently even using farm plots to plant trees.
The government must scale up this practice by introducing a proper land policy that allocates more area to forestry. The fact that Ethiopia has no land policy has led to utilizing huge areas for farming.
How will the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement impact Ethiopia?
It was members of the European Union that had a strong interest in financing forest development in Ethiopia, both before and after the Paris agreement. The contribution of the United States should be higher in terms of its share to environmental pollution. Donald Trump changed the course of the discussion to that end. However, the United States has still not officially pulled out. Even if Trump is reelected, the next president might change the decision. Even if United States pulls out, however, that does not mean the end of its contribution to Ethiopia. At least, the United States has not denied that Ethiopia is prone to drought, and that the water volume is declining.
8th Year • Jun.16 – July.15 2019 • No. 75