Eritrea is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world to the adverse effects of climate change , and increased climate variability has already been evidenced in the country . Since the 1960s, temperature has risen by approximately 1.7°C, at an average rate of 0.37°C per decade. In addition, extreme precipitation changes over Eastern Africa including Eritrea, such as droughts and heavy rainfall events, have been experienced more frequently during the last 30-60 years . Data from 1912-2005 also suggests that rainfall has been declining for the central and southern highlands , where rain-fed agriculture is the dominant form of economic activity .
Climate change impacts can affect all sectors and levels of society in the country. In the past few years, reducing vulnerability to climate change has become an urgent issue for Eritrea, especially given the economies great dependence on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, water, and the coastal zone .
Climate change impacts have already been observed on water resources, agriculture, coastal environments, forestry, livestock, and human health. For instance, Eritrea has an extensive river system with seasonal flow patterns. However, recurrent drought, warmer temperatures and high evaporation patterns are resulting in smaller stream flows, lower groundwater level, deterioration in water quality, and disappearance of base flows which are important sources of water supply for urban, rural, livestock and industry .
Over 70% of Eritrea’s population depends on agriculture (crop and livestock production) for their livelihoods. On the other hand, for most parts of the year, the population remains food insecure as the result of climate change and land degradation . Agriculture suffers from unpredictable weather conditions and wide seasonal price fluctuations. As a result, domestic food production, even in good years, remains well below the requirements forcing the country to rely on commercial imports. Since recent times, Eritrea has also suffered from sharp fluctuations in livestock production. The causes are linked to human factors and to the changes in climate. Shortages of pasture and water points, caused mainly by climate change and deteriorating land quality also hamper the livestock economy of the country .
Small-scale farmers dominate the agricultural sector where farmers earn low agricultural productivity. Characteristically, such farmers live in conditions of persistent poverty and rely on rain-fed and traditional practices. Consequently, such communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change variability .
Eritrea is one of the world’s lowest emitters of GHGs, contributing only 0.01% to the global share, and just 0.21% to the regional value.
In 2021, Eritrea submitted its First Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the UNFCCC , which included a GHG Inventory for the period 2015-2018. According to the inventory, between 2015 and 2018, Eritrea’s GHG emissions increased, particularly in the Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) and the Waste sectors. This was mainly due to increased urbanization and extraction of minerals. In comparison to 2010, the GHG emissions from the IPPU sector have changed dramatically, following the installation of the Eritrean cement factory that uses coal consumption for its process.
In 2018, the Agriculture, Forestry & Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector was the highest contributor to GHG emissions in Eritrea accounting for 74.77% of emissions, followed by the Energy sector (19.62%). The least emitting sector was the Waste sector (0.083%).
Looking at gas-by-gas emissions, CH4 emissions were the highest contributor followed by CO2 for the 2018 inventory year. CH4 emissions are mainly from the livestock sub-sector, due to enteric fermentation. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is mainly emitted from manure management.
Although the GHG emission trends are mainly connected to AFOLU, it is also important to consider the role played by a number of other drivers including low technology and limited technology transfer contributing to continuing GHG emission increase. Moreover, the extensive use of biomass and high carbon content fuels are a huge cause of emissions and require action and attention, to be replaced by alternative greener energy technologies. In Eritrea, excessive use of inefficient technologies mainly in power generation, transport, household and industry are a serious concern that need quickly to be addressed .
Key policies and governance approach
Eritrea has developed several polices and legal instruments to contribute to the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and has made considerable progress in integrating climate change concerns into its national development policy framework . Eritrea has also already taken steps to mainstream climate change mitigation issues into sectoral policies, including through the Energy Development Framework and Strategy (EDFS) .
In 2007, Eritrea launched its National Climate Change Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) which built on ongoing efforts to address climate change in the country’s development policy framework. The NAPA focuses on strengthening adaptation to climate change in five priority sectors, namely agriculture, forestry, water, marine and coastal environment, and public health .
In 2018, Eritrea submitted its first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC, which sets strong mitigation actions. Through its NDC, the government of Eritrea is committed to reduce the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 12.0% by 2030 compared to the projected BAU scenario of the reference year of 2010. If additional support is availed, emissions can further be reduced by 38.5% by the year 2030. The NDC also presents concrete measures and steps that need to be taken in its implementation including capacity building, technology transfer, financial support and partnership with regional and international agencies involved in climate change. To ensure effective implementation of the NDC, monitoring and evaluation (M & E) tools are also proposed .
In 2021, Eritrea submitted its First Biennial Update Report (BUR1) to the UNFCCC . Additionally, the country’s Third National Communication (TNC), Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), and National Adaption Plan (NAP) documents are being prepared .
Successes and remaining challenges
As identified by Eritrea’s First Biennial Update Report (BUR1) , inadequate institutional set up combined with limited manpower to handle climate change mitigation policies is a setback in the implementation of the country’s NDC. In addition, inadequate public and donor funding for delivering mitigation policies and actions, as well as weak monitoring capacity of mitigation impacts are gaps that require immediate attention. The major technical and capacity constraints that should be addressed immediately are as follows.
Currently, there is an inadequate institutional set up, including human resources, to effectively handle climate change mitigation policies. As a result, the existing policy and legislative framework needs to be improved to better oversee mitigation actions in the country.
In addition, inadequate public and donor funding for delivering mitigation projects is another setback. Once projects are approved, there is inadequate monitoring and reporting capacity to assess the implementation of projects and the impacts of the mitigation measures taken.
There is also no or inadequate research capacity on clean energy technologies. Introduction of renewable energy technologies need to be evaluated to assess their suitability and effectiveness which will require adaptive research capacities in solar, wind, and geothermal.
In Eritrea, there is also a particularly urgent need to establish sustainable data management, information generation and retrieval of data for further reporting on climate change, as currently there is low institutional memory regarding climate change.
Finally, mitigation activities require active and proactive participation of the public. As it stands, there is low public awareness regarding the risks involved in climate change in general and the links between climate change and the energy, AFOLU, IPPU and waste sectors. Further, public awareness should be promoted in collaboration with the mass media and the press on the importance of renewable energy (wind, solar and geothermal) in general and energy efficiency uses from the view point of human welfare and costs .
Goals and Ambitions
The country’s main planned adaptation goals for 2030 in the NDC are :
- Development and establishment of new enclosure areas over 750,000 ha;
- Promotion of Conservation Agriculture (Climate Smart Agriculture) in 5% of the cultivable land;
- Development and promotion of irrigation scheme by 170, 000 ha;
- Afforestation program will cover over 36,000 ha;
- Development of terrestrial and marine protected area of over 1.5 million ha;
- Construction of 90 new dams and 120 ponds;
- Safe drinking water supply will increase from 75% to 100%;
- Desalination of sea water for domestic and economic sectors in 15 coastal towns and villages and 7 islands;
- Wastewater treatment plant established to treat 3 million m3 of water/year;
- Rehabilitation of degraded land program for agriculture over 250,000 ha;
- Livestock productivity increased by 75%;
- Crop production of pulses will cover 25% of total cultivable land;
- Sustainable Land Management practiced will be implemented in 15% of the total land covered;
- Prevalence of climate change related public health problems and diseases will be prevented and reduced by 90%.
- Develop national Climate and mitigation policies and legislative framework.
- Enhance research capacity in public and private sector as well as National Higher Education and Research Institutes (NHERI).
- Build capacity in managing national database and archives for systematic observation in all sectors involved in climate change.
- Develop a comprehensive system of data storage and retrieval, a mechanism for quality control, and an easily accessible user-friendly retrievable electronic system, and establish an elaborate national and global network of systematic observation stations for effective and efficient exchange of data and information at all levels.
- There is a need for continuous training on the 2006 IPCC Guidelines and inventory software to improve the capacity of national experts for a better reporting of the inventory from Eritrea.
- The implementation of activities to mitigate the impact of climate change requires funds from public budget and/or bilateral and multilateral development partners.
- Enhance the capacity of national technical experts for tracking National Land-use Changes, and Land/forest Cover e.g. through Spatial and temporal satellite images to generate comprehensive and updated land use, vegetation cover change maps.
- Enhance Public awareness on Climate Change through the production of awareness material (Videos, Posters, and Animated Presentations etc.).