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Climate Crisis: Ethiopia Starts Ambitious Campaign to Plant 200 Million Trees a Day

The government hopes to plant four billion trees by the end of the year

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The Ethiopian tree-planting campaign is part of an initiative dubbed Green Legacy that was launched on May 26. VOA

Ethiopia has started an ambitious campaign to plant 200 million trees a day, a record that the African country aims to reach in the wake of deforestation caused by the climate crisis.

Six hours after the beginning of the initiative on Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who participated in the plantation drive in the south of the country, announced on his official Twitter account that they had achieved more than half of the goal by planting around 100.5 million trees. “The six hour result shows we are halfway to our goal. Congratulations for this milestone as we all #PlantOurPrint for a #GreenLegacy,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a post.

“Let us build on the momentum in the remaining hours.” The Ethiopian tree-planting campaign is part of an initiative dubbed Green Legacy that was launched on May 26. To achieve the Ethiopian goal and create a world record, each citizen has to plant at least two trees.

climate crisis, plant trees
The government hopes to plant four billion trees by the end of the year. VOA

The highest number of trees planted in one day by one person is 15,170 by Canadian Ken Chaplin in 2001, according to Guinness World Records. The government hopes to plant four billion trees by the end of the year. For this to happen, it is estimated that the 100 million Ethiopian population would have to plant at least 40 trees each.

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The objective of Green Legacy is to raise awareness and to make people take responsibility and reverse environmental degradation. Everyone is expected to take part, with the capital’s public offices closed so that workers can participate in the campaign. Staff at Ethiopian Airlines also joined the initiative.

Social networks were flooded with photographs of dozens of Ethiopians planting trees with the hashtag #GreenLegacy. Abiy’s initiative has received support from several international organizations, including UN agencies and international embassies. (IANS)

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New Locust Swarms Threaten Agriculture in Ethiopia

New Swarms of Locusts Threaten Crops, Food Security in Ethiopia

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Locust Ethiopia
An Ethiopian boy attempts to fend off desert locust as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia. VOA

A new round of locust swarms has hit Ethiopia and is again threatening crops and food security, say agricultural officials.

Dereje Hirpha, the Oromia region’s head of locust control, tells VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that the new generation of locusts was first reported weeks ago in the Raya district and has since spread across thousands of hectares in 40 districts of the region.

The fast-moving swarm is threatening crops in a country where more than 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood.

Locust Outbreak
A Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to swat a swarm of desert locust filling the air, as he herds his camel. VOA

Similar locusts wave hit Ethiopia a year ago.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it believes heavy rainfall in East Africa has contributed to the growth of locust swarms in the area.

This new generation is arriving from Somaliland, while breeding has continued on both sides of the Red Sea, and in Sudan and Eritrea, according to experts.

USAID plans to work with the U.N. Food  and Agriculture Organization to prevent and control the spread of locusts, its office of communication says.  The agency is training more than 300 pest experts and providing 5,000 sets of protective equipment for locust fighters.

Hirpha says authorities are spraying the affected areas from planes and vehicles on the ground to ward off the pests.

Locals, meanwhile, are engaged in their own combat operation.  When a locust swarm approaches, residents try to scare them away by blowing whistles, drumming empty buckets, setting fires, and shooting into the air.

Locust chasers take position in green areas to disperse the swarms before the descend.

Locust Ethiopia
A man tries to catch locust while standing on a rooftop. VOA

“From a distance the swarm looks like a brown cloud, a sandstorm,” says Sora Kura, one of the chasers in the Borana zone.

The swarm follows the wind direction and is also guided by hairy antenna on their heads that detect smells and other signals of food, Hirpha says. According to the FAO, the swarms can move up to 150 kilometers per day.

USAID says the swarms will likely spread next to southwest Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, and may enter Uganda and South Sudan.

Desert locusts can comfortably live in a warm, sandy environment like Eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland, Hirpha says.

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Ethiopia has to report any assessment of the crops lost to the pests.  In 2003 and 2005, locust outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mainly in North Africa, cost farmers $3.6 billion, according to the FAO. (VOA)

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2019 Was a Year of Climate Change Activism

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Hungary Climate Protest
Following the call of Fridays For Future Hungary and Extinction Rebellion Hungary young environmentalists demonstrate to demand measures against climate change in Budapest, Hungary. VOA

By Jamie Dettmer

2019 was the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and an uptick in climate action pledges by governments across the globe.

From Britain to Germany, Europe’s mainstream party leaders scrambled to respond to a surge in electoral support for Green parties — and to growing public anxiety about the possible impact of climate change.

During European Parliament elections in June, 48 percent of voters identified climate change as their top worry. Opinion polls in Germany for some weeks of 2019 put the Greens ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s storied Christian Democratic Party, which, along with its junior partner in the country’s governing coalition, has been racing to sharpen climate policies.

Greta Thunberg climate
15-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading “School strike for the climate” during a manifestation against climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, Sweden. VOA

British move

In Britain, the ruling Conservatives announced a hugely ambitious carbon reduction plan, enshrining into law a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so. Some smaller countries, including Finland and Norway, are earmarking dates earlier than 2050 to become net-zero greenhouse gas producers, but so far have not made their goals legally binding.

In America, an alliance of 24 states and Puerto Rico promised to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action, despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the international pact.

Shouldn’t all these plans and pledges be music to ears of climate action activists and scientists?

Apparently not. On the eve of Christmas, Thunberg tweeted: “I hear many say 2019 was the year when the public woke up to the climate crisis. This is a misconception. A small but rapidly growing number of people have started to wake up to the climate crisis. This has only just begun. We’re still only scratching the surface.”

For Thunberg, her guardians and loyalists, change can’t come fast enough, however wrenching and dislocating it might be. Governments aren’t doing enough and are failing to count their emissions accurately, they complain, and corporations are dragging their feet.

For activists, December’s Madrid climate change conference epitomized the foot-dragging and a failure to be truly aspirational in cutting emissions. For Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain and Australia, the key task for the Madrid gathering was to unveil ambitious new goals — and fossil-fuel-dependent countries, notably Brazil and Australia, flunked it, they say.

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The COP 25 conference center is seen in Madrid. VOA

Rich vs. poor

The rift between wealthy, developed nations and poorer, developing nations over who is going to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions also remained as wide as ever. And governments in Madrid stalled on agreeing on new regulations for carbon markets and the trading of carbon permits between countries for the offsetting of emissions, one of the most critical and contentious issues at the climate change conference.

“In Madrid, the key polluting countries responsible for 80 percent of the world’s climate-wrecking emissions stood mute, while smaller countries announced they’ll work to drive down harmful emissions in the coming year,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based climate action advocacy group. “World leaders dithered instead of taking stronger, critical action soon to reduce the global climate threat. They ignored dire scientific reports, worsening evidence of climate destruction and demands from millions of young people to protect their future.”

For others, though, the Madrid conference symbolized how politically complicated it will be to deliver climate action — a complexity activists ignore and glide over, some analysts warn. The venue for the conference itself spoke to that. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Chile, but it had to be switched to Spain because of riots in the Latin American country over a “Green” hike in transit fares.

And it wasn’t only in Chile that protesters were taking to the streets to complain about expensive Green policies that could make living standards plunge. In France, the Yellow Vests, drawn mainly from small towns, persisted with their demonstrations against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, an agitation triggered initially by the imposition of higher eco-taxes on fuel.

The year 2019 also saw strong resistance in Germany from motorists, as a well as automakers, to planned higher fuel prices and an abrupt shift to electric cars — yet another front in a political backlash to climate action.

Climate Europe Coal
Smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. VOA

Tricky politics

For governments, even environmentally friendly ones, climate change poses a massive political dilemma, and 2019 brought that home. Impose the tax hikes and costly regulations scientists say are needed to lower emissions and move economies away from dependency on fossil fuels, and governments risk prompting a backlash, largely from lower-income workers and pensioners, who can ill afford to bear the expense.

The alternative is to move slowly and risk blowback from climate action activists and their supporters among largely middle class and higher-income groups able to adapt with less hardship. Squaring the circle between those who demand fast-track climate-friendly measures and those who want to slow down and mitigate the impact of moving toward a low-carbon future isn’t going to be easy, say analysts.

In Europe, Central European governments sense the acute political danger to them and have been resisting a European Union plan to join Britain in earmarking 2050 as the year the bloc has to be “net zero.”

Poland has been especially vociferous in opposition. The country is heavily dependent on coal for its energy needs and more than a quarter-million Polish jobs are tied to the fossil fuel industry. Without coal, many towns in Poland will have no economic raison d’être. “You can’t expect Poland to leap to zero carbon in 30 years,” according to Marchin Nowak, a coal industry executive.

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While smaller developing countries fret that they will bear too much of the burden of climate action compared with richer nations, so, too, do those who already feel left behind in developed countries, fearing the costs and benefits of climate action will be unfairly placed on their shoulders. 2019 saw the opening salvos in this new political war over environmentalism. (VOA)

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Ethiopia Launches its First Satellite From a Space Station in China

Ethiopia Launches First Satellite

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Ethiopia satellite
Ethiopia's first-ever satellite has been launched into space by China. The earth observatory satellite is designed to help the East African nation gather data for agricultural, mining and environmental protection. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Ethiopia has launched its first satellite.

The satellite was launched into space Friday from at a space station in China.

Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists, however, watched a live broadcast of the Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite launch at the Entoto Observatory and Research Center, north of the East African country’s capital, Addis Ababa.

France, Satellites, Protection
The satellite was launched into space Friday from at a space station in China. (Representational image). Pixabay

“This will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity,” Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said in a speech at the event. “The technology is an important even if it’s delayed.”

Solomon Belay, the director general of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, told Reuters that China covered most of the costs of building the satellite.

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The data from the satellite will help Ethiopia to monitor the country’s resources and improve its responses.  (VOA)

Climate Crisis: Ethiopia Starts Ambitious Campaign to Plant 200 Million Trees a Day
New Locust Swarms Threaten Agriculture in Ethiopia
2019 Was a Year of Climate Change Activism
Ethiopia Launches its First Satellite From a Space Station in China