NDC update: In December 2020, Kenya submitted a new NDC. Our analysis of its proposed target is here.
Kenya’s energy future is at a crossroads: while renewable energy accounts for 85% of installed capacity, just short of the government’s target of being powered entirely by green energy by 2020, it has still not let go of its coal-fired power plant construction plans, which are currently paused due to tribunal decisions. In 2018, Africa’s largest wind project and the single largest private investment in Kenya’s history, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm came online, while the planned Lamu coal power plant continues to face headwinds from the continued exit of financial sector players. The government’s economic response package to the COVID-19 pandemic does not contain any explicit green measures. There is significant scope for the government to increase its climate ambitions as sectors are likely to exceed their current climate targets. The CAT continues to rate Kenya as 2°C compatible.
The CAT estimates that annual emissions in 2020 will be up to 5% below our pre-COVID-19 current policy projections due to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. This trend is due to a slowdown of domestic economic activity and international trade. Economic growth is expected to slow to 0.6% - 2.5% in 2020 compared to a pre-COVID-19 estimate of 6%. GDP growth in 2021 is predicted to be almost at pre-COVID-19 levels.
The government announced several measures related to healthcare, social protection and food security to support the recovery of economic activities. The government has not incorporated green recovery measures into the pandemic response measures adopted to date. In fact, some policies have actively undermined climate efforts. The government’s Finance Bill 2020, which is part of the recovery effort, foresees the introduction of taxes on clean cooking and solar energy products; this would significantly water down the gains towards access to modern energy for all.
Progress on mainstreaming of climate change into sectoral policies and plans is slow, despite the fact it is mandated by the country's 2016 Climate Change Act. The electricity supply sector’s long-term plan (LCPDP) makes no reference to Kenya’s NDC emissions reductions target. However, due to downward revised demand projections and the corresponding effect on the composition of electricity generation technologies, emissions are projected to decrease to almost zero in 2030. By contrast, the respective ministries for agriculture and transport have presented plans to reduce emissions to meet or even overachieve the sectoral NDC targets.
The government is advancing on regulations under the Energy Act 2019, with draft regulations currently undergoing stakeholder consultation related to solar PV and energy efficiency. Though as noted above, the recent changes in the tax code will adversely affect the solar industry.
The controversial Lamu coal power plant continues to face headwinds. In 2019, the African Development Bank announced that it would not support the project. General Electric (GE), which was meant to design, build and maintain the plant, also recently announced that it intends to exit the new-build coal-fired power market. According to Save Lamu, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) decided in November 2020 not to finance the Lamu coal plant due to environmental and social risks associated with the project.
That CAT estimates that emissions in 2030 will be 3% to 6% below our pre-COVID-19 projections due to the impact of the pandemic on economic activities.
Kenya’s Paris Agreement target is one of the few that the CAT 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 and there is potential for Kenya to strengthen its conditional target as well as adopt an unconditional one.
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 on 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.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our projections indicated that Kenya was on track to meet, and even overachieve its NDC target.
While it is challenging to project the eventual impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on future emissions, the CAT estimates that Kenya’s emissions may decrease further towards 2030 by around 3% to 6% below our pre-COVID-19 projection.
The decrease in emissions could be sustained if the government were to consider climate mitigation policies in its COVID-19 recovery plans. Climate change-related aspects are, however, not explicitly covered in the country’s recovery plans that prioritise actions linked to manufacturing, affordable housing, universal health coverage and food security, which are also the four pillars of the President’s Big Four Agenda (MyGov, 2020).
Although climate mitigation is not prioritised in the Big Four Agenda nor in the country’s Vision 2030, the Kenyan Government had already adopted the Climate Change Act (2016), which provides a framework for the promotion of climate-resilient low-carbon economic development (Republic of Kenya, 2016b). The Act mandates the government to develop a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) and update it every five years (Republic of Kenya, 2016b). The second and most recent NCCAP covers the period between 2018-2022 and its main objective is to guide climate action during that time and support the implementation of Kenya’s NDC. Under the NCCAP, sector representatives define priority mitigation actions that are designed to ensure that sectors achieve their sectoral NDC targets (Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 2018). The extent to which these actions are suitable for achieving sectoral targets is analysed in the following sections of this assessment. Although being a requirement under the Climate Change Act, climate change is not consistently considered in sectoral strategy plans.
The Ministry of Energy's latest electricity supply plan (2017-2037 LCPDP) entails a brief chapter on implications of the different scenarios on emissions but there is no reference to the sectoral NDC target (Republic of Kenya, 2018). According to the LCPDP, emissions are projected to be reduced to almost zero in 2030 compared to an increase to 44.7 MtCO2e in 2030, as indicated in the NDC baseline. This is mainly due to much lower demand projections as well as the restricted amount of generation from new coal capacity. Although the sector will partly miss its target of retiring three thermal plants by 2022, as indicated in the NCCAP 2018-2022, the sector is on track to exceed its 2030 NDC emissions reductions target.
The transport sector was the first, and so far only, sector to publish an annual report on performance and progress of climate action, as requested by Climate Change Act (Government of Kenya, 2019). In line with the NCCAP 2018-2022, the reports include mitigation actions the transport sector is undertaking to reduce GHG emissions to achieve the sectoral mitigation target of 3.7 MtCO2e against the NDC baseline in 2030 (Government of Kenya, 2019). Achieving the sector target is equivalent to an emissions level of 18.9 MtCO2e in 2030 compared to 22.6 MtCO2e under the NDC baseline scenario (MENR, 2017a).
The Ministry of Agriculture’s Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Strategy 2017-2026 is considered a tool to implement mitigation actions in the agriculture sector in contribution to Kenya’s NDC. Under the current pathway for agriculture emissions according to the CSA Strategy, absolute emissions are projected to decrease to 31.6 MtCO2e in 2030, a decrease of 10 MtCO2e in 2030 below the NDC baseline and would enable the sector to meet its 2030 NDC emissions reductions target (Ministry of Agriculture, 2018; Republic of Kenya, 2018).
Our analysis indicates that the forestry and waste sectors are on track to meet their 2030 sectoral NDC emissions reductions targets. Priority mitigation actions proposed for the energy demand and the industrial processes sectors are, however, insufficient to comply with their respective 2030 targets.