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Climate variability and change implication on Ethiopia’s economic development

The low-level of economic development, combined with a heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and high population growth, make Ethiopia particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, writes

There is overwhelming evidence that the global climate is changing and projections suggest that the rate of change will likely increase. Warming has occurred across much of Ethiopia and both the frequency and intensity of droughts have increased, inflicting severe damage to the livelihoods of millions of people. At the same time, increases in flooding have stressed social institutions and intensified the vulnerability of households.

Ethiopia is highly vulnerable to climate variability and change as a result of its geographic location, topography, high levels of poverty and heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture for subsistence and income generation. Many researchers have been addressed that Ethiopia is vulnerable to the effects of climate variability and climate change. This high climate variability and changes are highly exposed to hydro-climate extremes, such as droughts and floods. Such extreme weather and hydrological events hinder economic and social development and cause high numbers of casualties. According to WDI in 2010, 77.5 percent of Ethiopians were estimated to live on less than two dollars a day and 46 percent of the total population was undernourished. Ethiopia’s capacity to address poverty, food insecurity and various other socioeconomic problems is highly dependent on the performance of the agriculture sector (UNDP, 2014), as over 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture to make a living.

Meresa et al., 2016, stated that climate change is likely to cause increased variability in rainfall and lead to more frequent and severe flooding and drought events. Mean annual temperature is also projected to increase by 0.8-2.1°C by the 2030s. Small-scale farmers and pastoralists are likely to be significantly affected by these changes in climate, through increased poverty, water scarcity, and food insecurity. Furthermore, Ethiopia, like many developing countries, is exporting primary products (e.g. coffee), which again is highly prone to the effects of climate change and climate extremes. As such, climate impacts on the agriculture sector have the potential to influence Ethiopia’s GDP. Similarly, Meresa, et al, 2010, addressed that Ethiopia has been prone to extreme weather variability

Rainfall is highly erratic, most rain falls with high intensity and there is a high degree of variability, temporally and spatially. Since the early 1980s, the country has suffered seven major droughts-five of which have led to a famines-in addition to dozens of local droughts. Currently, a slow-onset natural disaster is evolving, resulting from the failure of the spring belg rains, compounded by the arrival of El Niño weather conditions that have weakened the summer kiremt rains that feed 80-85 percent of the country. This has greatly expanded food insecurity and malnutrition and devastated livelihoods across the country.

The low-level of economic development, combined with a heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and high population growth, make Ethiopia particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Intense pressure on the country’s soil, water and biodiversity resources add to the national challenge of responding to climate variability and change. Climate variability and change, therefore, has the potential to hold back economic progress, or reverse the gains made in Ethiopia’s development and could exacerbate social and economic problems.

However, following Ethiopia's bold policy to accelerate development while reducing its vulnerability to climate change, internal and external projects played a leading role in coordinating the preparation and launch of the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Facility, the first in Africa, to support this policy/strategy. With the launch of the Facility, Ethiopia is now in a better position to initiate programs, finance mechanism and an institutional setup to pursue a low carbon/emission climate development strategy. Through these funds (national and international) support in the establishment of the National Climate Resilient Green Economy Facility Ethiopia has taken the first step in climate finance readiness.

Having such consensus, Ethiopia is already committing significant resources to reduce its greenhouse gases and build resilience to the impacts of climate change, in line with its national development priorities, notably through:

·        Intensified natural resource management and afforestation/ reforestation of several million hectares of degraded land, with active voluntary contributions of local communities;

·        Investments in a low-emission transport sector, namely the construction of a 5,000 kilometers railway network that will utilize clean energy;

·        Increased energy access and power generation from the hydro, wind and solar energy sectors, including the construction and operationalization of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam amounting to USD four billion generated from domestic sources.

However, despite this investment, Ethiopia still needs to attract and mobilize finance to support its climate compatible development agenda. The country has responded by establishing a national fund, the Climate Resilient Green Economy Facility (CRGE Facility), as a mechanism to mobilize finance from various sources, including domestic and international, and drive investments to build resilience and support green growth.

Ed.’s Note: Hadush Kidane Meresa (PhD) is particularly interested in water resource and climate change. He received his PhD from institutes in Norway and Poland and a Master’s Degree in Water Science and Engineering from the Netherlands. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].