Ethiopia submits NDC update committing to first unconditional emissions target, though progression unclear
Ethiopia submitted a summary of its updated NDC in December 2020 in which it presented, for the first time, an unconditional emissions reduction target for 2030, which the CAT rates as 2°C Compatible. The new NDC includes significant upward revisions to its 2010 base year estimate, which will likely increase the CAT’s current policy projections for Ethiopia, though details are not yet available. So, while the announcement of an unconditional target is a positive development, whether, and by how much this target will be more ambitious than the previous one is difficult to assess based on the information that is currently available. The NDC update also includes a higher 2030 business-as-usual (BAU) estimate and has revised its conditional target downwards, leading to higher emissions than in the original NDC. The government has indicated that it will submit a full technical report on the NDC soon. We will update our analysis as more details become available.
CAT analysis of NDC submission
In December 2020, Ethiopia submitted a summary of its updated NDC and indicated that a final technical report will be submitted soon.
For the first time, Ethiopia delimitated conditional and unconditional contributions to its NDC. The government committed to covering 20% of the estimated total mitigation costs using domestic resources. Ethiopia has indicated that it has made several changes to its BAU and methodology; however, it has not provided the full details of these changes in the NDC summary. Our analysis is therefore provisional and will be revised as more details become available (see assumptions for further details).
The new unconditional target results in an absolute emissions level about 365 MtCO2e (excl. LULUCF) (361 MtCO2e incl. LULUCF). We rate this target as 2˚C Compatible. An assessment of whether this represents a stronger target compared to the previous NDC is highly contingent on the increase in historic emissions mentioned in Ethiopia’s NDC submission, as this revision could increase the CAT’s current policy projections (CCP) for Ethiopia. If that is the case, the unconditional target may fall within the CAT’s estimates of Ethiopia’s emissions in 2030 under current policies and including the impacts of COVID-19. If so, the updated NDC would be considered stronger because it did not have an unconditional target before and this new unconditional target could drive climate action if it falls within CPP.
The revised conditional target leads to higher emissions than the first NDC. It results in an absolute emissions level of above 213 MtCO2e (excl. LULUCF) in 2030 compared to the previous target of 185 MtCO2e (excl. LULUCF). The 2030 business-as-usual (BAU) scenario against which the reduction target is measured has been revised upwards by a small amount. The CAT does not rate conditional targets; however, if it did this target would fall in the 1.5˚C Compatible range.
Overall Ethiopia’s CAT rating remains unchanged at 2˚C Compatible. While the original conditional target in the first NDC fell within the 1.5˚C Compatible range, we downgraded the target by one level due to its conditionality. The new unconditional target in the updated NDC falls within the 2˚C Compatible range. In other words, while the rating has not changed, what we are rating has.
There are some positive architectural elements of the NDC and areas that could be improved. On the positive side, the updated NDC now includes intermediate conditional and unconditional targets for 2025, thus providing greater clarity on the emissions pathway. Both the first and updated NDC include reductions from BAU. The first NDC also included an absolute limit on emissions, while Ethiopia has provided a similar limit for the unconditional target in the NDC revision, but it has not included an absolute limit for the conditional target. To enhance the certainty of the target, Ethiopia should consider including this absolute emissions limit in its full submission.
Consistent with the approach adopted in the first NDC, the update includes a sectoral breakdown of target emissions; however, methodological changes, which are not published as part of the updated NDC, prevent direct comparison. Notably, emissions from biomass burning are now counted in energy emissions rather than forestry emissions. These methodological changes explain the significant shift of expected emission reductions from the forestry sector (51% of emission reductions in the first NDC compared to 9% in the updated NDC of 2020) to the energy sector (emission reductions of 73% in the updated NDC of 2020, with no comparable category in the first NDC). These changes make estimating LULUCF emissions more challenging. Hopefully, the full technical report will provide further details.
Ethiopia has long had the objective of reaching “carbon neutrality”; however, there is a lack of clarity as to the target year and the modalities of that goal. No further details are provided in the NDC update, though Ethiopia signalled that it will submit its Low Emission Development Strategy 2050 soon.
Global Warming Potential (GWP) values
The updated NDC does not explicitly indicate what global warming potentials (GWPs) are used. Ethiopia used AR4 values in its first NDC and most recent National Communication. However, the update cites GWPs in discussing the reasons for the revision of the base year (2010) estimate, which suggests that it may have adopted AR5 values (something which countries will need to do in all reporting from 2024 onwards). In the absence of further details, we have assumed the figures are based on AR4 values and will update the assessment once the technical report is made available.
Base year (2010) estimates
Ethiopia indicated that its base year (2010) emissions are 112 MtCO2e higher than in the first NDC. The revision is due to methodology improvements, global warming potential values, and country specific parameters for livestock and biomass. If reference to GWP values means a conversion from AR4 to AR5 values (see discussion above), this is responsible for about 5 MtCO2e of the increase in the base year. As we do not have data on the LULUCF component of this base year increase, we have continued to use the value for 2010 in the latest CAT country assessment for the calculations in the NDC comparison table.
The updated NDC provides a breakdown of the mitigation contribution by sector. However, Ethiopia has now started to account for its emissions from biomass burning in the energy sector rather than forestry. A further breakdown of energy sector mitigation contribution is not provided. We have used the estimates for the land sector to represent the LULUCF contribution, however those are likely underestimated.