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Trilateral cooperation on low carbon zones in Africa

Project Reference: AAGL-0009L

This research project scoped the potential for trilateral cooperation between China, Africa and the EU on the development of Low Carbon Zones (LCZs) in African countries, focussing on Ethiopia and Zambia. LCZs are large-scale pilot areas that provide distinct institutional and policy ‘microclimates’ for the testing of low carbon, climate resilient approaches. The aim of an LCZ is to build experience, attract finance for sustainable development and demonstrate successful low carbon development growth models at scale, to assist African countries in meeting the seemingly competing priorities of economic development and decarbonisation. As an additional benefit, such trilateral cooperation would help to build trust and experience of concrete cooperation across negotiating blocs within the UNFCCC negotiations.

As a first step, the project assessed the potential and appropriateness of LCZs in Ethiopia and Zambia, mapping the national resource context and legislative framework and assessing political commitment and the willingness of Chinese, European and other international partners to support the enterprise. This involved desk research, phone interviews, bilateral meetings and multi-stakeholder workshops in Addis Ababa and Lusaka with government representatives, civil society, donors and the private sector.

These dialogues led to the conclusion that Ethiopia holds considerable potential for the development of LCZs. Ethiopia possesses a combination of high-level political support and ambition for national action on climate change, a clear national vision and plan, and the activity of European donors and Chinese investors in complementary activities relating to, for example, climate finance, sustainable agriculture, energy and infrastructure investment. Ethiopian government officials identified that LCZs could help implement the national climate change strategy, by providing a framework within which sectoral plans can be integrated for an economy-wide approach, and tailored to local contexts and development priorities for sub-national implementation.

In Zambia, although there was interest from government and civil society around the LCZ concept, there was less of a clear national vision on a low carbon economy and the national climate strategy was less advanced. It was clear that beginning detailed work on LCZs in Zambia would have been premature, and the project team instead focused remaining efforts on the Ethiopian case.

These dialogues, alongside the results of a literature review on the political economy of low carbon development in low-, middle- and high- income countries and a workshop with European, Ethiopian and Chinese stakeholders in London, resulted in the production of a Chatham House briefing paper on the challenges of managing low carbon development in different development contexts.

The second phase of the project focused on developing a Zone Action Plan for trilateral cooperation on LCZs in Ethiopia, as well as continued engagement with European, African and Chinese stakeholders. A workshop was held in Beijing in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, inviting Chinese stakeholders and experts to consider the role of Chinese investment in LCZs in Africa. Bilateral discussions were undertaken with potential investors and stakeholders to solicit input, and a series of interviews with members of the Ethiopian government inter-ministerial Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Unit was conducted to better understand sectoral plans and initiatives.

Alongside a review of existing government documentation and a GIS mapping exercise to develop an overview of the spatial distribution of relevant infrastructure, natural resources, renewable potential and land use, these discussions informed the development of a draft Zone Action Plan. This document proposes options for the Ethiopian government in moving towards an implementation phase in partnership with Chinese and European stakeholders; it was discussed and endorsed at a workshop in Addis Ababa with the inter-ministerial CRGE unit and stakeholders from Ethiopian industry and civil society.


Chatham House Briefing Paper: Stuck in Transition Managing the Political Economy of Low Carbon Development

CDKN Blog by Rob Bailey of Chatham House on establishing low carbon growth in Ethiopia

An academic journal article on the development of LCZs in Ethiopia was submitted to Climate and Development. A link to this paper will be provided here when this is published.

Lead: Chatham House

Project Partners:  E3G, UK; Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre, Ethiopia

CDKN Funding: £162,700

Regions/Countries: Africa/ Ethiopia and Zambia

Type: Research project, CDKN Innovation Fund

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Project Highlights