The government of Ethiopia supports the global climate policy as well as the REDD+ mechanism as climate change mitigation mechanism. Ethiopia has been in the process of developing its REDD+ program since 2008. The Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) was prepared in 2011 in a participatory way and its implementation started in January 2013. During the R-PP development, Ethiopia  prepared an economy-wide climate policy, known as the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy. The CRGE Strategy was initiated in recognition of the vulnerability of  the country to climate change impacts  and the compelling need for greening Ethiopia’s economy. As Ethiopia’s economy is largely dependent on weather sensitive agriculture and hence vulnerable to climate change impacts, it is in the interest of the country to participate in the global efforts to curb climate change. The government of Ethiopia has taken the bold step of shifting the development paradigm from a carbon intensive approach to a carbon neutral and climate resilient pathway.

The CRGE Strategy, which was officially introduced during COP-17 in Durban in 2011, is a clear manifestation of the leadership’s commitment to pursue a carbon neutral development regime. The strategy has identified a number of low carbon emitting initiatives across key economic sectors (forestry, energy, livestock, agriculture, transport and industry), which can lead Ethiopia towards its vision of building a climate-resilient middle-income economy by 2025.The successful implementation of these initiatives can help Ethiopia to reduce over 250 million tonnes of CO2e on an annual basis by 2030, compared to the BAU development path. The strategy aims to maintain the annual GHG level of the country at the 2010 level of 150 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030. The largest share of emission reduction effort (50% of the national emission reduction target by 2030) is given as the responsibility of the forest sector. To implement forestry activities with significant abatement emission  potential, REDD+ has been taken as a major investment instrument, and it is one of the four fast-track programs for realizing targets set in the Green Economy Strategy.

Since 2011, the government has aggressively embarked on operationalising the CRGE strategy and implementing low emission and climate resilient actions. The government has established a new institutional setup for the effective development and implementation of the CRGE strategy at all levels, from federal to district. The CRGE Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee is chaired by the Prime Minister’s Office and comprises Ministers of the CRGE Sectors, with the National Planning Commission Commissioner providing overall oversight and responsibility for the realization of the CRGE vision. Line Ministries have also established CRGE units, with the overall responsibility of coordinating and facilitating the planning and implementation of sectoral CRGE strategies. The former Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has been upgraded into the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC), in order to technically coordinate the delivery of the strategy. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MOFEC) has also established the CRGE Facility in order to mobilize and access climate finance from bilateral, multilateral and other sources, besides investment by the government. Now, the National REDD+ Program is coordinated by the National REDD+ Secretariat accountable to the Forest Sector of the MEFCC.

The REDD+ Program, which  is now embedded within the national CRGE strategy and the National Forest Sector Development Program (NFSDP) is anticipated to contribute to the achievement of the CRGE targets through improved management of existing natural forests and expansion of forest cover through afforestation/reforestation (A/F). With 17.2 million hectares of forests covering 15.5% of the national territory (following the revised national forest definition, MEFCC, 2015; Figure 1) , that is under threat with an annual deforestation rate of 0.54% (Ethiopia’s FRL-revised submission to UNFCCC, 2016), and a large expanse of deforested lands, degraded forest areas, and degraded lands suitable for forest restoration, Ethiopia has a huge potential for REDD+ implementation.

Figure: Extent of the forest cover under the current Ethiopia’s forest definition

If forests continue to be deforested, there exists a risk that rural development will be impaired, livelihoods of forest dependent communities will decline and valuable ecological services will gradually dwindle. Thus, Ethiopia’s  interest to invest in forest conservation and forest restoration goes beyond emission reductions or removals. Much of the terrestrial carbon stock in Ethiopia occurs in areas that have the potential to generate co-benefits. Actions to secure more of these areas and their carbon and to improve management are likely to achieve substantial biodiversity, livelihoods and water resource related co-benefits. In particular, improved water resources on major water towers (mountains) of Ethiopia through increased forest cover will enable the country to generate sustainable hydropower from regulated and steady flow of surface water and would also allow irrigation agriculture for improved rural development and food security. Besides saving the existing natural forests, Ethiopia will plant 16.1 million ha of new forest to double its forest cover by 2025. Therefore, Ethiopia recognizes the need to protect its forest resources and increase forest cover in order to establish itself on sustainable development pathway.

Through REDD+ Ethiopia is in a position to reduce GHG emissions and expand the forest area that can absorb carbon by implementing policies and actions (PAMs) that target to  address not only forest emission from deforestation and forest degradation, but carbon removals through large scale forest restoration. These actions will help prevent further degradation of  its natural capital including the  soil, water  and biodiversity resources. Against this background, Ethiopia has thus expressed interest to participate in the global REDD+ mechanism and the REDD+ process has been active since 2009, and now it is finalizing the REDD+ readiness

This National REDD+ Strategy has been prepared in  response to the global requirements for countries to implement the  Warsaw Framework for REDD+ before receiving RBPs. The development of this strategy has been informed by several national and sub-national assessments and studies, consultations, the CRGE process and R-PP development. The National REDD+ Strategy identifies key legal, institutional, socioeconomic and technical drivers of forest loss and degradation that directly or indirectly contribute to the national emission. Further, it identifies barriers and opportunities for increased carbon removal through forest restoration. It also identifies the necessary targeted measures and enabling implementation frameworks for the REDD+ activities in the country.