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Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the horn of Africa and is the tenth largest country of the continent with area of 1,104,300 km² [1]. The country is a land of geographical contrasts with elevations that range from 125 m below sea level in the Danakil Depression within the great rift valley system to 4533 m above sea level in the Semien Mountains, which is a world heritage site.

Ethiopia has large regional differences, which are reflected in its climate. The lowlands in the southeast, covering 55% of the countries land area and northeast are tropical with average temperature of 25-30°C, while the central highlands are cooler with average temperatures around 15-20°C. Mean annual rainfall can range from less than 300 mm in the south-eastern and north-western lowlands to over 2000 mm in the south-western highlands [2]. The diverse climate of various ecological regions of the country has driven the establishment of diverse vegetation, which range from Afroalpine vegetation in the mountains to the arid and semi-arid vegetation type in the lowlands. Ethiopia is biologically rich, with more than 6500 vascular plant species of which 12% are endemic mainly due to geographical isolation and unique climatic conditions [3].

Important National Context

Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa [2]. It has a total population of 117.88 million in 2021 of which 77.83% live in rural areas [4] with agriculture as the main livelihood. The country’s population is projected to reach 205.41 million by 2050, and the proportion of working-age population will increase from its current 56.87% to 65.62% by 2050 [5].  

Urban population in Ethiopia is growing rapidly. Estimated at only 14.74 % in 2000, Ethiopia’s urban population share has been one of the lowest in the world, but it is growing rapidly. The country’s urban population has almost tripled and increased from 9.76 million in 2000 to 26.14 million (22.17% of total population) in 2021 and will rise to 80.22 million (39.05% of total population) by 2050 [5]. However, urbanization is failing to meet the demands of urban residents mainly in terms of access to jobs, infrastructure and services, and housing. Therefore, policy makers must weigh the long-term costs and benefits when making decisions, as the policies, institutions, and investments put in place now will influence urban systems for years to come [6].

Ethiopia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world with a GDP of 264.052 billion USD, PPP (constant 2017 international USD) and GDP per capita of 2297 USD, PPP in 2020 [6]. However, Ethiopia has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world: its GDP has been growing at 8.74 % per year over the last two decades [6] . Agriculture has been the main contributor to GDP, employment, and export. The shares of agriculture, industry, and service sectors to GDP changed from 51.6%, 10.9%, 37.5% in 2004 to 33.3%, 28.1%, and 39.6% in 2020 respectively [7].  Ethiopia also hosts the fifth largest refugee population in the world, and is the second largest host of refugees in Africa [8]. 

Despite rapid economic growth, progress in structural transformation has been limited. This has constrained the opportunities available for technological learning, skill formation and innovation. The country needs to focus on entrepreneurial capacities and production linkages, and shift focus from technology transfer to innovation [9].

More than 23 million people in Ethiopia are estimated to be in the need of humanitarian assistance due to internal conflict, displacement, recurrent natural hazards (mainly draught and flooding), and the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 [10]. INFORM measures Ethiopia’s risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster as very high at 6.8/10. The lack of coping capacity stands at 6.8/10 and vulnerability at 6.4/10 [11].

Environmental Governance

Ethiopia is one of the richest countries in natural resource endowment. Nevertheless, due to pressures from socioeconomic changes coupled with improper governance practices, the country has been threatened by prolonged natural resource degradation. The Ethiopian government adopted a new federal constitution in 1995. Article 44 of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) assert that “All persons have the right to live in a healthy and clean environment”. In addition, article 92 of FDRE constitution states that “The role of government to ensure all Ethiopians live in a clean and healthy environment”. The government should ensure the formulation and enforcement of programs for development which shall not destroy the environment. More importantly, article 43 of FDRE constitution provides the right to sustainable development. The constitution noted that “the people of Ethiopia as a whole and the nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia in particular have the right to improved living standards and the right to sustainable development” [12].  

Government institutions that are mainly responsible for environmental and natural resource governance issues in the country include the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, and the Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC). EFCCC is responsible to ensure the realization of the environmental rights, goals, objectives, and basic principles enshrined in the Constitution as well as to the implementation of the Environment Policy of Ethiopia [13] through coordinating appropriate measures, establishing systems, and developing programs and mechanisms for the welfare of humans and the safety of the environment.  

In Ethiopia, several environmental policies exist including the National Adaptation Plan of Action (2007), the Ethiopian Program of Adaptation on Climate Change and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in 2010. The country has also endorsed a Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy and other sectoral policies such as the Climate Resilience Strategy for Agriculture and Forestry (2015), the Climate Resilience Strategy for Energy and Water (2015), the Climate Resilient Strategy for the Transport Sector (2015), the National Health Adaptation Plan to Climate Change (2017) and the  Climate Resilience Strategy for Urban Development and Housing (2017) [2].

The country also updated its first National Determined Contribution (NDC) covering the period between 2020 and 2030 [2].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Ethiopia is a key partner for the European Union, characterized by a long standing partnership. In 2016 the EU and Ethiopia signed a “strategic engagement”, which implies close cooperation in several areas such as the regional peace and security, trade and investment, and migration and forced displacement [14].

Ethiopia has been and is supported by the European Union in the implementation of its development strategy, notably in the areas of food security and agriculture, health, and governance. Moreover, in recent years, the focus has increased in the areas related to job creation, industrial and agro-industrial parks, export and trade promotion and private sector development [14]

Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Ethiopia. Since 2011 Ethiopia has been implementing Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy that follows a sectoral approach and has so far identified and prioritized initiatives, which could help the country achieve its development goals while limiting 2030 GHG emissions to around 2010’s 150 Mt CO2e – around 250 Mt CO2e less than estimated under a conventional development path. The green economy plan was based on four pillars [15]: (i) Improving crop and livestock production practices for higher food security and farmer income while reducing emissions; (ii) Protecting and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem services, including as carbon stocks; (iii) Expanding electricity generation from renewable sources of energy for domestic and regional markets; and (iv) Leapfrogging to modern and energy-efficient technologies in transport, industrial sectors, and buildings.

Since the implementation of the Climate-Resilience Green Economy Strategy in 2011, Ethiopia has registered dramatic economic growth, with a growth rate averaging 9.2% a year from 2010 to 2019, which has been accompanied by structural transformations. The share of agriculture of CDP has decreased while the share of construction and service industries has grown. In addition, the poverty rate has declined from 29.6% in 201 to 23.5% in 2019 [2].

Since the change of government in 2018, the new government has launched an initiative called the Green Legacy with a plan of planting 20 billion seedlings by 2024, which is in line with the green growth strategy. The country managed to plant about 16.7 billion seedlings over the period from 2019 to 2021 through intensive campaigns during the rainy seasons of these three years [16]. 

The green growth strategy and Green Legacy Initiatives of the government are in line with the European Green Deal which aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy, ensuring no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, decoupling economic growth from resource use, and leaving no person and no place behind [17].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate change, land degradation, and loss of biodiversity are interlinked environmental and development challenges that Ethiopia has been facing for long. These environmental-development challenges are reducing the capacity of land to provide ecosystem services.  As a result, the country’s vulnerable and rain-fed agriculture dominated economy and the livelihoods of its millions of people are affected negatively due to these environmental-development challenges.



Ethiopia is vulnerable to climate change with a high degree of risk to hydrometeorological hazards and natural disasters. Poverty and dependency on key sectors (agriculture, water, tourism, and forestry) most likely affected by climate change exacerbate the vulnerability of the country to this phenomenon. The Agricultural sector, which employs the majority of countries work force, heavily relies on rainfall [2]. High-risk natural disaster which are occurring more often are flooding and drought. Moreover, the topographic diversity and highly marginalized segments of the population, make it additionally vulnerable. Additionally, inadequate infrastructure to handle the increasing population and other factors are impacting the susceptibility to natural disaster and climate change. [18].



Ethiopia is known to be biologically rich, with more than 6500 vascular plant species of which 12% are endemic. Ethiopia is also a centre of origin for cultivated crops which contribute 90% to the country’s export value and 45% to the GDP. However, a number of wild plants and animals, including endemic species and farmers’ varieties and indigenous animal breeds, are declining due to habitat conversion, unsustainable use of resources, climate change and others [19].


[1] Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (2015). Ethiopia – Land Degradation Neutrality National Report. 

[2] Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (2021). Updated National Determined Contribution.

[3] Asefa, M., Cao, M., He, Y., Mekonnen, E., Song, X., Yang, J. (2020). Ethiopian vegetation types, climate and topography. Plant Diversity 42(4), 302-311.

[4] World Bank (2021). World Development Indicators: Population dynamics.

[5] World Bank (2021). Population estimates and projections.

[6] World Bank (2015). Ethiopia Urbanization Review: Urban Institutions for a Middle-Income Ethiopia.

[7] National Bank of Ethiopia (2020). Annual Report 2019/20. 

[8] World Bank Group (2017). Country Partnership Framework for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

[9] United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (2020). Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Review of Ethiopia.


[11] European Commission, INFORMRISK (2021). Country Risk Profile - Ethiopia.

[12] FDRE (1994). Constitution of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. 

[13] FDRE Environmental Protection Authority Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (1997). Environmental Policy.

[14] European Commission Website (2019). The European Union and Ethiopia step up their partnership and cooperation .

[15] FDRE (2011). FDRE (2011). Ethiopia’s Climate-Resilient Green Economy: Green Economy Strategy.

[16] Ethiopian Monitor: Daily News.  Green Legacy 2021: Ethiopia Plants over 6.7 billion Tree Seedlings.

[17] European Commission Website. A European Green Deal: Striving to be the first climate-neutral continent.

[18]  Climate Risk Profile: Ethiopia (2020): The World Bank Group.

[19] Convention on Biological Diversity Website. Main Details – Ethiopia.