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As the issue of climate change is set to take center stage next month at the COP summit in Paris, countries around the world have been reviewing their policies and strategies to save themselves and the rest of the world from the devastating effects of global warming.
Ethiopia lunched a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy back in 2011 as an integral component of its ambition to become a low carbon emitting, middle income economy by 2025. As part of this strategy, the government has identified several areas of intervention such as improving crop and livestock production practices to bring about improved food security and increase farmers’ incomes.
Reducing greenhouse emissions and protecting and re-establishing forests to benefit the economy and ecosystems are actions undertaken simultaneously. Ethiopia has been commended for efforts to combat climate change. Specifically for increasing carbon stocks, expanding electricity generation from renewable sources of energy for domestic and regional markets, and transitioning to modern energy-efficient technologies in transportation, construction and industrial sectors
Despite such efforts, Addis Ababa has become an increasingly polluted city, car exhausts being blamed as the major polluter. If you gaze into the city’s horizon in the morning, you will see that dark smoke hang like clouds. The city lacks green areas and the growing population needs more vehicles, the balance is tough to strike and failure to do so affects the population’s health.
The government, looking into ways to reduce pollution, is now preparing a policy to levy a carbon tax on vehicles. According to the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, this step would encourage the use of less carbon dioxide emitting vehicles and machines.
A carbon tax on vehicles looks the most feasible idea to decrease the pollution. But, how effective and realistic would it be in a country like Ethiopia, whose urban population is a minority of 99.4 million people, with a large percentage of its rural population still dependent on firewood for energy? That is the tricky part.
Ethiopia had already levied high taxes on imported cars; the newer the car, the higher the tax. Of course, it is not the only country where buying a car is very expensive. Countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and China are also well known for steep taxation on vehicles.
Neither is Ethiopia the first country to implement a carbon tax. China has done it before, but Ethiopia cannot be compared with these countries because there are huge differences between such as their levels of advancement in public transportation systems, their urban/rural population ratio, energy sources, and the list can go on.
The challenges in the city’s transportation system are very visible; people have to wait in line to get on a taxi or a bus. Not many people can afford to buy used cars, let alone brand new ones. Out of the approximate 400,000 cars in Ethiopia, the majority were used when they were imported into the country.
I believe we have rethink higher taxes on new vehicles. It has been a while since owning a car stopped being a luxury; it has become a necessity. The government’s move to collect more tax from car imports is understandable, yet as an idea it needs immediate rethinking. The tax should be higher on used cars, which tend to be less efficient, than on new cars, which have lower levels of emissions and fuel consumption.
If the motive of such policies is to control carbon dioxide emission from cars and tackling pollution, to ultimately contribute to the fight against climate change, why tax newer, more efficient cars? It would be more visionary to introduce bicycle lanes on our roads.
Change is always difficult to come by. Yet, it will only come when citizens are foresighted and are ready to take on inconveniences that accompany progress. Lasting change occurs when we learn and act in a concerned manner, so we can make better choices. It is today’s choices that structure tomorrow’s world.