Kenya’s Paris Agreement target is one of the few that the Climate Action Tracker rates as “2°C compatible”. This rating indicates that Kenya’s current policies are within the range of what is considered to be a fair share of global effort; however, these plans are not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement.
Kenya’s energy future is at a crossroads: while renewable energy makes up 85% of its installed electricity capacity and the government has stated aims to be powered entirely by green energy by 2020, these goals are in stark contrast with plans to both extract coal and to use it for power generation.
The Kenyan government has two coal-fired power plant proposals in the pipeline: the controversial 981MW Lamu coal-fired power plant, due to be commissioned in 2024, and a 960MW coal-fired power plant in Kitui, scheduled for 2034. If built, these two plants would be the first coal-fired power generation in East Africa.
The Lamu plant, which was scheduled to begin construction in 2015, has faced strong opposition: In June 2019, the Kenyan National Environment Tribunal withdrew the plant’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment licence because of failure to conduct effective public participation, which delays but does not stop the development process. While the plant is backed by local and Chinese investors, in November 2019, the African Development Bank announced it will not fund the project, in line with the bank’s plans to not fund any future coal projects.
Kenya has a conditional NDC to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030 relative to a business as usual scenario of 143 MtCO2e (using Global Warming Potentials from IPCC Second Assessment Report) incl. emissions from LULUCF. This is equivalent to 46% above 2015 emission levels excl. LULUCF.
The country is already on track to meet or overachieve its Paris Agreement pledge, but plans to improve it in 2020, along with submitting a long-term low carbon development strategy. Kenya could meet its NDC target almost entirely by deciding not to proceed with the two coal-fired power plants. Conversely, if they were to go ahead, this would put the target in jeopardy.
If one were to recalculate Kenya’s NDC based on the lower range of current policy projections, it would increase its ambition from 110 MtCO2e/yr excl. LULUCF to 89 MtCO2e/yr excl. LULUCF. If we were to translate this emissions level to the language of Kenya’s NDC, this would be a reduction of 44% below BAU, including LULUCF. In preparation for its NDC, bottom up sectoral analysis determined that Kenya has the potential to reduce emissions by 60% below BAU. There is significant scope for Kenya to adopt an unconditional target as well as scale up its conditional target with international support.
The government plans to achieve much of its NDC through mitigation efforts in the forestry sector, which is expected to contribute about half of the emissions reductions needed to reach its NDC. However, we do not include the forestry sector in our rating, as it is difficult to analyse it with effort sharing approaches (due to data uncertainty and dependency on country-specific circumstances). See the explanation Why the CAT NDC ratings don’t include LULUCF.
Kenya is also part of the CAT’s Climate Governance Series through which the CAT expands on its country analysis to evaluate the ability and readiness of national governments to implement ambitious climate policy.
According to our analysis, Kenya is on track to meet, and even overachieve its NDC target when considering the upper and the lower range of the current policy pathways, respectively.
Under a business as usual scenario, GHG emissions from the electricity supply sector are projected to grow from 1.2 MtCO2e in 2015 to 44.7 MtCO2e in 2030. Under current policies, sectoral emissions are projected to grow to 20.9 MtCO2e in 2030 or be reduced to almost zero in 2030 under the upper and lower range of the current policy projection scenario, respectively.
Current polices are lower than the business as usual scenario (prepared in 2013) due to demand projections in the electricity sector that have been revised downwards and the corresponding effect on the composition of electricity generation technologies. While the expected high demand was originally to be covered to a large extent by coal-fired power plants, recent sector plans indicate that the proposed coal-based power plant would be grossly underutilised by forecasting an average capacity factor of 8% for coal-fired power plant, due to its economic disadvantages compared to other planned generation options.
Absolute emissions in the energy demand sector in 2030 are projected to be higher under the current policy scenario (12 MtCO2e) compared to the NDC baseline (10.6 MtCO2e), after considering new information on the drivers for future emissions. Around 6 MtCO2e could be reduced by 2030 with the dissemination of improved cookstoves to reduce charcoal and firewood consumption. Charcoal production is governed in Kenya by the Charcoal Rules, under the Forest Act 2005, although it occurs almost entirely in the informal sector.
In the industrial processes and in the transportation sector absolute emissions in 2030 are projected to be slightly higher under the current policy scenario compared to the NDC baseline, with an increase of projected emissions in 2030 by 0.8 MtCO2e each. Around 3.12 MtCO2e could be reduced by 2030 through the adoption of low carbon and efficient transport, such as the extensive mass transit system for greater Nairobi. While feasibility studies have been conducted for various lines, construction is underway for one line.
Absolute emissions in the agriculture sector are projected to be similar under current policies (41.5 MtCO2e) compared to the NDC baseline (41.6 MtCO2e) in 2030. The main mitigation action for this sector is to require every land holder to maintain a compulsory farm tree cover of at least 10% on any agricultural land holdings, in compliance with the Agricultural Farm Forestry Rules.
The Government of Kenya aims to reduce emissions in the waste sector through improved waste management. The National Solid Waste Management Strategy 2015 has a short-term goal of 30% waste recovery and 70% controlled dumping by 2020 and in March 2017, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry introduced a ban on the manufacture, use and importation of plastic bags use for commercial and household packaging.