Policies & action
The CAT rates The Gambia’s policies and action as “1.5°C compatible” when compared to its fair-share contribution. However, there is significant potential for mitigation actions to go beyond The Gambia’s fair share with the help of international support.
The “1.5°C compatible” rating indicates that The Gambia’s climate policies and action are consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The Gambia’s climate policies and action do not require other countries to make comparably deeper reductions.
The Gambia has an NDC target that would bend its emissions downwards; however, its current policies are not on track to meet this target. The Gambia will need international support to implement more stringent policies to meeting its NDC target.
Further information on how the CAT rates countries (against modelled domestic pathways and fair share) can be found here.
At a time when countries should move away from fossil fuels, The Gambia continues to promote efforts to extract oil and gas in an attempt to offset its dependency on imported fuel oil (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021a). The Gambia’s continued reliance on oil is not only a burden on the economy but also leaves the country vulnerable to a volatile commodity market (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021a). The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the situation by hiking fuel prices (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2022b).
As The Gambia’s Strategic Electricity Roadmap for 2021-2040 highlights, the country has significant solar energy resources and solar PV is one of the least cost renewable energy technologies in The Gambia (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2022a). Increasing its renewable energy generation and transitioning to an affordable sustainable energy system would ensure The Gambia stays on a 1.5°C-compatible pathway, avoids technology lock-in, and improves its energy security while also achieving a critical milestone for the country’s socio-economic development (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2022a).
One of The Gambia’s strategies to achieve its emission reductions targets is the uptake of renewable energy technologies. After a slow start and delays due to COVID-19, the Gambia is now rapidly increasing its renewable energy capacity with a total of 170 MW in solar PV projects in the pipeline for 2021-2025, with partial finance from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (Bellini, 2020a).
The Gambia has an ambitious conditional emissions reduction target that would bend its emissions downwards; however, its current policies are not on track to meet this target. These policies are also off track when compared with modelled domestic pathways. The Gambia will need to implement more stringent policies to meet its conditional target, for which it will need additional international support.
In Glasgow, four sectoral initiatives were launched to accelerate climate action on methane, the coal exit, 100% EVs and forests. At most, these initiatives may close the 2030 emissions gap by around 9% - or 2.2 GtCO2e, though assessing what is new and what is already covered by existing NDC targets is challenging.
For methane, signatories agreed to cut emissions in all sectors by 30% globally over the next decade. The coal exit initiative seeks to transition away from unabated coal power by the 2030s or 2040s and to cease building new coal plants. Signatories of the 100% EVs declaration agreed that 100% of new car and van sales in 2040 should be electric vehicles, 2035 for leading markets, and on forests, leaders agreed “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.
NDCs should be updated to include these sectoral initiatives, if they aren’t already covered by existing NDC targets. As with all targets, implementation of the necessary policies and measures is critical to ensuring that these sectoral objectives are actually achieved.
- Methane pledge: The Gambia signed the methane pledge at COP26. In 2010, methane emissions accounted for about 40% of The Gambia’s total emissions excluding LULUCF, coming predominantly from the agriculture sector (Republic of The Gambia, 2020). Almost half of The Gambia’s proposed mitigation measures in its 2021 NDC come from its agriculture and waste sector, thus it is likely that the adoption of the Methane Pledge is not additional to what it had already planned.
- Coal exit: The Gambia has not adopted the coal exit. However, The Gambia does not derive any of its power from coal and is not planning to build any plants in the future (African Energy Commission (AFREC), 2019).
- 100% EVs: The Gambia has not adopted an uptake target for electric vehicles (EV).
- Forestry: The Gambia has not signed the forestry pledge. The Gambia does note in its 2050 Climate Vision that if the current trend of deforestation continues to 2050, then The Gambia will have no forests left.
- Beyond oil and gas: The Gambia is not a member in the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. The Gambia continues to promote oil and gas extraction and is expected to launch another licensing round (Connor, 2022a; Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021b). This is seemingly inconsistent with its signature of a statement aligning international public finance with the clean energy transition at COP26 along with over 20 countries (UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), 2021).
The Gambia faces a number of challenges with regard to energy supply. One obstacle is that a little less than half of the population remains without access to electricity with a higher rate in rural than in urban areas (The World Bank, 2020).
Another problem is The Gambia’s dependence on imported fuel oil which is a burden on the Gambian economy as well as an issue of energy insecurity (Republic of The Gambia, 2021b). Though The Gambian government acknowledges that the transition to an affordable sustainable energy system is a critical milestone for the country’s socio-economic development, it continues to promote oil extraction in the country as a solution to its dependency on imported oil (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021b, 2022a). The situation has been exacerbated by the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine which hiked fuel prices (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2022b).
One of the pillars of The Gambia’s strategy to achieve its emission reduction targets is the uptake of renewable energy technology. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy took a key step in that direction in June 2022 by validating the Feed in Tariff and Net Metering (FITs) scheme after experiencing numerous setbacks to its implementation since 2013 when the government, with support from the European Union, developed the initiative and model for The Gambia (Nyockeh, 2022).
This FiT scheme was part of the Renewable Energy Act passed by The Gambian Parliament in 2013 (Republic of The Gambia, 2013). FITs seek to make the installation of renewable electricity systems more affordable for owners of the system, encourage electricity consumers to become more energy-efficient, and promote the diversification and decentralisation of electricity production.
In 2017, the African Development Bank approved a grant for the development of mini grids in The Gambia through its Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa. This project supports installation of small and medium scale projects and the creation of governance structures to support renewable energy development (Bungane, 2017).
In May 2018, the first large-scale solar PV project (20 MWp), called the Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project (GERMP), received financing for its construction in the Greater Banjul area and completed the pre-selection process for developers in March 2020 (Bellini, 2020a; The World Bank, 2022a). The project is part of a USD 164m renewable energy programme launched by the Gambian government with financial support from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) (EIB, 2019; Takouleu, 2019). GERMP runs until 2024 and includes the 20 MWp solar plant, grid reinforcement investments, institutional and technical support for the electricity sector and off-grid PV systems installed at up to 1,100 public schools and health facilities (EIB, 2018). The EIB estimates the programme will lead to emission reductions of up to 32 ktCO2e/a once fully implemented (EIB, 2018).
The Gambian government is also working with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to develop a 150 MW West African Power Pool regional solar power park in The Gambia that could be linked to a battery storage system with a capacity of 100 to 150 MWh (Bellini, 2020b). Due to COVID-19 there have been some delays, but the commission of the project is expected in 2024 (West African Power Pool, 2021a, 2021b).
The 2021 update of The Gambia’s Strategic Electricity Roadmap for 2021-2040 highlights the falling costs of renewable technologies, particularly solar PV, and identifies it as one of the least cost renewable energy technologies in The Gambia (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2022a). It also promises universal access to electricity by 2025 (Kandeh, 2021).
Improved operational performance of the National Water and Electric Company (NAWEC) have led to a reduction in transmission and distribution losses from 28% in 2015 to 19% in 2021 (The World Bank, 2022b).
In March 2022, The Gambia launched its first solar mini grid plant. Financed under the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Facility (EREF) with support from USAID and Power Africa, the project involved the design, supply, installation, and commissioning of a 120.6 kW solar PV off grid containerised mini grid with battery storage, grid interface, and remote monitoring systems (U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Office, 2022).
Assessing the state of implementation of laws and policies for The Gambia as well as quantifying aspects of its renewable energy and energy efficiency plans is difficult, due to a lack of reporting and availability of data. However, given these developments in the renewables sector, we have assumed that The Gambia is on track to meet its renewable energy target of a reduction of 175 GgCO2e/year by 2030 in its updated NDC.
With a combined total of 170 MW in solar PV projects in the pipeline for 2021-2025, the target of 89 MW of utility-scale solar capacity by 2030 is already on track to be met. That being said, The Gambia will still need to ramp up its transition to renewable energy in the coming years, as it had only 2 MW of solar and 1 MW of wind installed capacity in 2020 (IRENA, 2021).
Oil and Gas
The Gambia continues to promote efforts to extract oil in the country in an effort to compensate for the fact that it imports 100% of its refined petroleum products (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021b). This has not proven very successful so far. In 2018, Australian oil company FAR started drilling The Gambia’s first offshore well in 40 years, which was unsuccessful (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, 2021b). FAR continues to look for more drilling opportunities (Kulovic, 2022).
In December 2019, the Gambian government signed another deal with BP to explore oil and gas off its coast but the rights to the block reverted to the government in 2021 after BP failed to drill a well before the initial exploration period expired (Reuters, 2019; Reuters Staff, 2021). Another round of oil and gas licencing is expected (Connor, 2022b).
While the Gambia lies on a basin with proven natural gas reserves (Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bassau-Conakry Basin (MSGBC)), its own exploration has been modest to date (Connor, 2022b). As the current global natural gas infrastructure already supplies the volumes required, any addition is at risk of becoming a stranded asset (Climate Action Tracker, 2022).
At a time when countries should move away from fossil fuels, The Gambia should focus on further increasing its renewable energy generation to stay on a 1.5°C-compatible pathway, avoid technology lock-in, and improve energy security, The Gambia will need international support to do this. The Gambia took a public step in this direction by signing a statement aligning international public finance with the clean energy transition at COP26 along with over 20 countries (UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), 2021).
The Gambia’s 2050 Climate Vision cautions that the Gambia will have no forests left by 2050 if the current trend of deforestation continues. In 2018, The Gambia initiated a project that aims to restore 10,000 hectares of forests, mangroves, and savannas, bringing it closer to reaching its 2021 NDC afforestation target of reducing emissions by 0.37 MtCO2eq in 2030 (Green Climate Fund, 2022). The Gambia has also committed to striving to maintain 30% of total land area under forest cover (Republic of The Gambia, 2021b). Overall, The Gambia intends to achieve around 15% of the needed emission reductions for its 2030 target from the land sector (Republic of The Gambia, 2021a).
The Gambia’s emissions from Land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) contributed to almost one third of the country’s total emissions in 2010. Until 1998 The Gambia’s LULUCF sector was a net carbon sink, but from 1999 onwards the sector has been a net carbon source (Republic of The Gambia, 2012, 2020).
In 2000, The Gambia’s LULUCF sector had net emissions of approximately 0.52 MtCO2e, and by 2010 the sector’s emissions had increased by over 200% to 1.18 MtCO2e (Republic of The Gambia, 2012, 2020). The use of wood fuels, which are by far the dominant domestic source of energy in the Gambia, are a significant contributing factor to deforestation (Republic of The Gambia, 2021b).