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Ethiopia pushes for green economy ahead of Rio+20 — forests a major player

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi believes Ethiopia "can avoid the mistakes of the developed world."

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Photo courtesy of Trees For The Future/flickr.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (16 February, 2012)_A green economy that prioritises forest conservation to boost development in one of Africa’s poorest nations is at the heart of a recent initiative launched by the Ethiopian government ahead of the Rio+20 summit.

“Forestry is a central pillar of the strategy so the plan will definitely have a significant and positive influence on forests and agro-forests,” said Habtemariam Kassa, a CIFOR scientist based in Ethiopia.

The Rio+20 summit in June aims to renew political commitment and progress on developing a global green economy. While forests are notably absent from the seven issues to be discussed at the summit, Ethiopia intends to raise the spotlight on the vital role forests can play in Ethiopia’s transition to a green economy, Habtemariam said. The word ‘forest’ is mentioned 345 times in the strategic document, he noted.

The four initiatives selected by the government for fast-track implementation include: exploiting Ethiopia’s vast hydropower potential; large-scale promotion of advanced rural cooking technologies; efficiency improvements to the livestock value chain; and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

“These initiatives have the best chance of promoting growth immediately, capturing large abatement potentials, and attracting climate finance for their implementation,” according to the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy launched at the recent UN climate change conference in Durban.

Ethiopia plans to develop renewable energy technologies and protect its forests, a dual strategy aimed at boosting economic growth and fighting climate change.

“We have the opportunity to demonstrate that in the 21st century, a new form of green growth is possible, where we can avoid the mistakes of the developed world and at the same time create the pathway to greater prosperity for millions of Ethiopians,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles ZenawM at the launch of the strategy.

The Ministry of Agriculture has since announced a CRGE Facility will soon be established to coordinate and lead national efforts to implement the strategies outlined in the CRGE document.

“What makes this strategy unique is the explicit recognition that a significant share of increase in agricultural production has come from agricultural expansion to forests and woodlands, and allowing this to continue would exacerbate deforestation and land degradation rates,” said Habtemariam. “If left unchecked, this will more than double greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from the 2010 levels.”

Among the strategies identified as priorities in the forestry pillar of the CRGE strategy are the reduction of fuelwood demand by promoting increased use of  fuel-efficient stoves and electric or biogas stoves. The plan also calls for improved forest management to increase carbon sequestration in trees and woodlands.

More than 85% of Ethiopia’s greenhouse gas emissions presently come from agriculture and deforestation, and the majority of Ethiopians use charcoal and wood for energy. Under the plan, hydropower, solar, wind and geothermal energy will be harnessed to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 250 million tons annually and promote green jobs in one of Africa’s least developed economies.

Meles said Ethiopia intends to invest $150 billion in creating a zero-carbon growth economy over the next two decades, drawing on funds from the International Climate Fund, as well as carbon trading markets.

Norway and the UK said they will provide financial support to implement Ethiopia’s CRGE plan to plant trees, increase agricultural productivity and promote energy-efficient technologies. Norway pledged up to USD 60 million a year to support the program.

“Norway is proud to announce our strong commitment to be a significant and long-term partner for Ethiopia in its groundbreaking efforts,” Norway’s Minister of the Environment and Development Cooperation, Erik Solheim, said in a statement. “We encourage other countries to follow Ethiopia’s lead in embracing green economic growth as the main road to a sustainable future.”

Meles met with Solheim, and the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, on the sidelines of the Durban summit. The three leaders agreed on the need to keep forests firmly at the top of the international agenda and emphasized climate change mitigation efforts should have a long-term perspective and promote low-carbon development.

To ensure that  Rio+20 delivers a global message that forests matter to sustainable development, CIFOR will coordinate one of the most important conferences on forests on 19 June, 2012. Forests: The 8th Roundtable at Rio+20 will discuss new research findings, remaining knowledge gaps and policy implications for integrating forests into the solutions to four key challenges to progress toward a green economy: energy, food and incomewater, and climate. Seats are limited so register here to avoid disappointment! 

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Community forestry Climate talks Rights