Kenya’s updated NDC, submitted in December 2020, has slightly strengthened its 2030 target. Whereas the previous NDC set the target of a 30% emission reduction below business as usual (BAU) levels by 2030, and was fully dependent on international support, Kenya now commits to reducing BAU emissions by 32% by 2030, with part of this new target not conditional on financial support. While the introduction of an unconditional target is welcome, there is still much scope for Kenya to further enhance its target. The CAT rating remains unchanged at 2˚C compatible.
CAT analysis of NDC update
In December 2020, Kenya submitted its updated NDC to the UNFCCC, setting a new target of reducing GHG emissions by 32% by 2030, relative to the business as usual (BAU) scenario of 153 MtCO2e including LULUCF (143 MtCO2e using IPCC SAR values). This is a small improvement from the previous target of a 30% reduction below BAU. While the previous NDC target was entirely conditional on international support, Kenya now commits to bear 21% of the mitigation costs, or USD 3.7 billion, itself, although the government notes that its financing needs may change with changing circumstances. We calculate this unconditional contribution to be equivalent to an unconditional target of 7% below BAU, including LULUCF – or 4% below BAU, excluding LULUCF emissions. This corresponds to emissions levels of 126 MtCO2e by 2030 (expressed in AR4 values) (see assumptions below).
In its first NDC, Kenya included a separate target of 47% for the LULUCF sector. While explicit reference to this target has been dropped in the update, we assume that Kenya will meet about half of its NDC with reductions in land sector emissions. Excluding this sector, emissions in 2030 will be slightly lower under the new conditional target, decreasing from 110 to 108 MtCO2e. The new conditional target is equivalent to a 17% reduction below BAU by 2030 (excl. LULUCF).
While we welcome Kenya’s enhanced NDC target, the country could set its sights much higher. In a bottom-up sectoral analysis completed in 2017, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources identified potential emission reductions equivalent to a 60% reduction below BAU by 2030, indicating that Kenya has much greater scope to increase its conditional target. The CAT estimates that this conditional target sits at the top of the country’s emissions trajectory based on current policies and so it is questionable how much real-world action the target will drive.
Kenya’s CAT rating remains at “2˚C compatible”. The new unconditional target falls within the “2˚C compatible” range. The emission levels of the conditional target are consistent with a “1.5 Paris compatible” rating. Our rating for the former conditional target was downgrading to “2˚C compatible” due to the fact that it was a conditional target.
Kenya’s NDC updated mentions both its plans to build two coal-fired power stations, and to develop domestic coal mining, but such plans are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature goal. By 2040, coal-fired electricity needs to be phased out globally, and much earlier for many regions. For the Middle East and Africa region, coal-fired electricity would need to be reduced by 80% in 2030 (compared to 2010) and phased out by 2034. While Kenya’s conditional target is within the range of what is considered to be a fair share of global effort, its planned coal expansion is not consistent with the need to phase out coal-fired power plants under the Paris Agreement.
Kenya indicates that it will need significant international support to forego its planned development of its fossil fuel resources. Financial support from developed countries is in line with a fair share approach and necessary to help developing countries to achieve ambitious NDCs. However, it is also important to note that Kenya has abundant renewable energy resources, which are cheaper to exploit than coal-fired power plants.
In its updated NDC, Kenya makes a brief reference to how the new target will be ‘an important part’ of the country’s transition to ‘a low emission society by 2050’ but is otherwise silent on the details of its long-term emission reduction development strategy and whether it will contain a net zero emissions target. It also mentions milestone targets for 2025, but does not provide any information on what these targets are.
If Kenya overachieves its NDC target, it plans to make use of voluntary cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and sell emission reductions beyond its NDC target.
Kenya’s updated submission does not provide sectoral mitigation targets. Such sectoral targets were developed in the aftermath of submitting the first NDC. We hope that Kenya will adopt a similar approach for the NDC update and develop and release these targets soon. Other implementation plans have not changed significantly compared to the previous NDC.
The updated NDC provides a non-exhaustive list of priority mitigation measures in various sectors. These include increasing the share of renewables in the national energy grid; enhancement of energy efficiency across sectors; achieving a tree cover of at least 10% of Kenya’s land area; and climate smart agriculture. The NDC also outlines that the planning processes for mitigation activities are determined by the country’s Vision 2030 development programme; the National Climate Change Action Plan; and the National Adaptation Plan.
The NDC update provide much more detail on the country’s planning process, including an overview of Kenya’s policy, legal and institutional framework, as its NDC Revision Process, compared to its first NDC. For a more detailed assessment of Kenya’s Climate Governance, see the CAT’s latest Governance assessment here.
Global Warming Potential (GWP) values
Kenya has indicated that it will account for its NDC using GWP values from the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5). However, we assume that its reference to a BAU of 143MtCO2e is expressed in GWP values from the IPCC’s second assessment report (SAR). Similar to the first NDC, the updated NDC quantified the 2030 reference value based on the 2030 GHG emissions projected in the National Climate Change Action Plan (2013-2017) and values in that report are in SAR. For the purpose of this analysis, we assume that the sector contribution to achieving the target and LULUCF assumptions used in the CAT country assessment remain unchanged and we converted the IPCC SAR GWP values to AR4 GWP values. Converting from SAR to AR5 under these assumptions would increase the targets by a couple of MtCO2e. If, however, the BAU is already in AR5 values, then the targets will be lower than the estimates provided here.
Kenya has indicated that methodological improvement and data availability may lead to changes in the reference value and will inform on any updates in forthcoming National Inventory Reports and/or Biennial Transparency Reports.
The NDC states that Kenya will bear 21% of the estimated required mitigation costs itself. In the absence of information on sectoral mitigation costs, we assume that this 21% financial contribution is equivalent to a 21% share of the emission reductions achieved. On that basis, emissions in 2030 under Kenya’s unconditional target would be 126MtCO2e, around a 4% reduction below BAU (excl. LULUCF).
The comparisons to 1990 and 2010 level in the NDC comparison table graph are based on the historical data in the November 2020 update for Kenya. The NDC notes that a third GHG inventory has been prepared with historical data to 2015. Data for 1995 and 2015 mentioned in the NDC is higher than those estimates currently in the CAT assessment and suggest that the historical timeseries may be higher overall. This would make the comparisons to 1990 and 2010 levels lower.