Ethiopia has had a turbulent few months: the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the desert locust invasion, extreme weather events including floods, as well as simmering tensions related to the national election along with escalating conflict. But even amidst this backdrop, the country has demonstrated its clear commitment to addressing the climate crisis by submitting not only its updated nationally determined contribution (NDC), but also by pursuing practical action through its Green Legacy initiative to plant 20 billion seedlings in four years.

Ethiopia formally submitted an update to its enhanced NDC on July 23, 2021. This set of national climate change commitments and plans is the culmination of months of dedicated analysis and exploration of climate compatible development in Ethiopia.

Here are some noteworthy changes to the NDC:

1. Improves on a Legacy of Ambition for Climate Compatible Development

Ethiopia’s initial NDC, submitted in 2015, embodied a vision for an ambitious and prosperous future. It drew heavily from the country’s Climate Resilient and Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy, which lays out climate-compatible development efforts across all sectors of Ethiopia’s economy. The latest iteration of the NDC builds on this legacy with several key improvements.

First, the latest NDC includes updated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections using the most recent national and sectoral emissions inventory data. Second, the NDC integrates the country’s national climate and development objectives by aligning the GHG emissions pathways with national development priorities and sectoral targets from Ethiopia’s new 10-year development plan. Third, even though Ethiopia’s contribution to global GHG emissions is tiny, the country has increased its overall mitigation ambition with a commitment to reduce economy-wide emissions by at least 68.8% by 2030 against the business-as-usual projection. This is an additional 4.8% below the reductions committed in the previous NDC.

2. Enhances Ambition on Adaptation

Ethiopia is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its dependency on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources, as well as its low adaptive capacity to absorb climate change-induced shocks. The government was able to draw on policy and planning advancements including sectoral climate-resilient strategies, the National Adaptation Plan (NAP 2017) and the NAP Implementation Roadmap (2019) — and now specifies 40 adaptation interventions.

3. Aligns Monitoring and Reporting with International and National Processes

The NDC lays out Ethiopia’s intentions to align its monitoring and reporting system with the Paris Agreement and provides the required information that will serve as a basis for future reporting, thereby helping to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding of the NDC and its implementation.

Tracking the progress of climate change efforts will also align with the framework for tracking sectoral indicators to measure progress under Ethiopia’s 10-year development plan. This tracking approach enables more integrated monitoring of progress toward climate and development objectives, rather than treating climate change tracking as an additional activity, which would require greater financial and capacity resources. To enable tracking of progress on adaptation specifically, the NDC also provides concrete indicators, sets baselines and sets 2030 targets for each indicator.

4. Increases Domestic Financing

Unlike the first NDC, the updated NDC includes a clear demarcation between the effort (both mitigation and adaptation) that Ethiopia will pursue unconditionally using domestic finance and what that the country will pursue conditionally, based on international support. This includes a specific commitment to a meaningful financial contribution from domestic resources, along with a commitment to explore further ambition increases during the NDC period. Of the total cost of NDC implementation ($316 billion estimated between 2020 and 2030), 20% of the total cost will be domestically financed and the remaining 80% will require international support. The split assumes that Ethiopia will implement the least-cost mitigation and adaptation actions to achieve its unconditional targets during the NDC period.

Three Lessons Learned from the NDC Update Process

The significant changes and improvements to the NDC were the result of a coordinated and consultative process. Other countries may find some of these lessons useful for their processes.

1. Apply Integrated Planning

The Ethiopian NDC updating process began while the country was also in the final phase of formulating its 10-year development plan. While managing both processes in parallel created an additional burden, it presented a unique opportunity to ensure the integration and full alignment of the country’s development objectives with climate actions.

Like the 10-year development plan, Ethiopia’s updated NDC covers the period between 2020 and 2030. Thus, the NDC needed to build on the country’s development objectives, along with several other national initiatives including the emerging 2050 Long Term Low Emission Development Strategy and the Green Legacy Initiative, among others.

2. Engage Key Stakeholders

The Government of Ethiopia has also undertaken participatory green economy modeling and analysis, as well as stakeholder engagement with all ministries and development partners to inform its updated NDC. The modeling and analysis efforts were also being used to develop GHG emission projections for the 10-year development plan and explore Ethiopia’s ambitions to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

The updating process benefited from the extensive intergovernmental collaboration and engagement with several development partners — such as the World Bank, UNDP, Pegasys, Perspectives Climate Group and South-South-North, with support from WRI and the Global Green Growth Institute. While having numerous external partners can often be challenging or result in duplication of efforts, the Environment Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC) retained a leadership role in which they organized and coordinated activities through a technical working group. This comprised government focal points, development partners and senior technical experts who advised and guided the overall updating process.

3. Review and Refine

Following the early submission of Ethiopia’s NDC update to UNFCCC in December 2020, two additional rounds of GHG emissions modeling were conducted. Additionally, further rounds of workshops and consultative meetings were undertaken to refine and validate the modeling results and assumptions with consideration for the country’s development ambitions and directions. This supplemental effort ensured that intervention options and targets were fully vetted with stakeholders and well-aligned with the new 10-year development plan goals and targets. The refinement of the modeling exercises was discussed and a final draft of the NDC was prepared during a meeting of the technical working group. The draft NDC was vetted by a national committee on the Climate Resilient Green Economy (the CRGE Forum) and was formally validated in a high-level workshop on July 1, 2021.

Need for Support and Next Steps

Ethiopia requires financial, capacity-building and technical support to implement its NDC and fully achieve its long-term climate and development objectives. Realizing Ethiopia’s ultimate climate ambitions will simultaneously support the achievement of its ambitious development agenda. It also sends a clear signal of its objective and request for support from the international community.

While the NDC was a critical step forward, the government of Ethiopia will continue to explore climate-compatible development pathways looking further into the future as it prepares its mid-century Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy. This upcoming planning process calls for a further rigorous robust analytical foundation to ensure transformative climate actions, which will help realize Ethiopia’s green structural transformation.