Ethiopia’s nature-based solutions for climate adaptation

December 3 2020 - Opening statement by Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, at the roundtable discussion on Ethiopia’s Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Adaptation.

I would like to thank the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and the Global Commission on Adaptation for bringing us together for this timely and vitally important event.

I would also like to congratulate the partnership for its broad coalition and focus on renewed emphasis and momentum on systemic shift towards integrating nature-based solutions into adapting to climate change.

UNDP commends countries including Ethiopia, civil society, Global Commission on Adaptation and many partners, in advancing efforts on adaptation and on the growing partnerships around nature-based solutions.

We are all aware that there is an immense cost to inaction on climate and disaster risks, and that we are fast losing nature’s capacity to regulate fundamental water, climate and other life support systems on earth.

To quote the UN Secretary General in his remarks yesterday, "Humanity is waging war on nature. And nature always strikes back -- and it is already doing so with growing force and fury".

UNDP is firmly committed to advancing adaptation mainstreaming, ensuring that ecosystem based adaption  and more broadly speaking, nature based solutions  are fully considered within this mainstreaming effort, by drawing on our engagements with countries across the world, and especially reflecting the needs and priorities of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - to ensure a sustainable path to climate resilient recovery and development.

Ethiopia is highly vulnerable to climate change, COVID- 19 and environmental degradation.

Widespread environmental degradation across large parts of Ethiopia is disrupting ecosystem services. Soil erosion and land degradation are the largest challenges faced in maintaining soil fertility and productivity of agricultural and range lands.

According to the Climate Resilient Green Economic Strategy, at current rates of exploitation of forests, between the period of 2010 and 2030, an area of 9 million hectares might be deforested. The annual cost of land degradation in Ethiopia is estimated to be 2 to 3 % of agricultural GDP.

Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed Ethiopia’s vulnerability to various shocks, for which the country needs to build resilience.Therefore, it is urgent and important to take up nature based solutions to adapt to climate change and ensure a resilient recovery post pandemic. Considering the COVID pandemic, it is all the more urgent that nature based solutions designed to address the co-vulnerabilities of the health/nature/climate crises are advanced:

  • Ecosystem based adaptation can help restore and protect economically important ecosystems, and generates both direct (planting, monitoring, developing nurseries, supplying seedlings, etc.), and indirect employment, from tourism, timber and non-timber forest product, and is estimated to yield in 1 trillion USD in net benefits by 2030 by the GCA.
  • NBS, by reducing pressures on natural habitats, also play a vital role in reducing the risk of future pandemics.


I would like to a moment to highlight UNDP’s commitments and contributions in this area and towards Ethiopia’s resilience:

  • UNDP has supported Ethiopia in realizing its green development and climate resilient agenda at policy and implementation levels. Through its Nature, Climate and Energy project portfolio in Ethiopia, UNDP is supporting projects worth more than $87 million in grant financing (from GEF, etc.) that are currently under implementation or have been recently approved for funding - directly benefitting over 225,000 persons in 22 woredas and 11 regions/cities of Ethiopia, 6,450ha of land - including about 2,000 ha of land under agriculture and agro-forestry, 4,000 ha of scrub-grassland landscapes and 450ha of peri-urban landscapes ( This does not include many other UNDP-supported projects worth millions of dollars that have been successfully completed over the past several years).

We recognize Ethiopia’s commitment and leadership in Green Economy and Nature Based Solutions. Ethiopia has made several commitments at policy level, that include:

  • Development of a Climate Resilient Green Economic strategy to address the adverse effects of climate change by building a greener and more resilient economy.
  • Contribution to the Paris Agreement through its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which is currently being updated to integrate new realities and renewed ambition.
  • Development of a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to address climate change in the country’s development policy frameworks.
  • In 2019, the country launched the Green Legacy for a greener and cleaner Ethiopia, an ambitious undertaking to become a green society by planting various types of eco-friendly trees to combat environmental degradation, with the goal of planting 20 billion trees over five years and restoring about 15 million hectares of forest.

As we reinforce our efforts to adapt to climate change and prepare to build back better, we absolutely need to seek an environmentally sustainable development pathway.

To conclude, I would like to quote again the words of the UN SG, “the recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity. We can see rays of hope in the form of a vaccine. But there is no vaccine for the planet. Nature needs a bailout. In overcoming the pandemic, we can also avert climate cataclysm and restore our planet. This is an epic policy test. But ultimately this is a moral test. It is time to flick the “green switch”. We have a chance to not simply reset the world economy but to transform it”.

UNDP will continue our work alongside our partners, across the UN system, governments, donors, civil society, and private sector to protect the health of our planet, ecosystems, lives, and livelihoods. UNDP commits to partnering with Ethiopia on its vision for climate-resilient development.

Thank you !

This speech first appeared on

Last Updated: 3 Dec 2020