Short introduction on Kenya’s emissions

Although CO2 is the driving force behind the temperature changes, other gases such as methane (CH4) also contribute their share to global warming, for example through the exploitation of gas fields, and emissions by livestock. While methane is emitted much less than CO2 on a global scale, it is a much stronger greenhouse gas (GHG). Scientists estimated the relative strength of the important Kyoto greenhouse gases so that we can convert all emissions to an equivalent of CO2 emissions. For example, the emission of one ton of methane has approximately the warming effect of 25 tons of CO2. The factor of 25 reflects the climate forcing on a 100-year time horizon, following the Global Warming Potential presented in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

With greenhouse gas emissions of approximately the equivalent of 71.5 mega tonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2eq), Kenya contributed 0.15% to the global greenhouse gas emissions of 2017 (rank 69 - incl. EU27 on rank 3). All emissions estimates exclude emissions and absorption from land, which result from activities such as cutting down or planting of forests (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry: LULUCF). Emissions from bunker fuels (international aviation and shipping) were also excluded, as they are not accounted for in national totals.

For 2030, Kenya’s global contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is projected to stay at a similar level of approximately 0.16% (91.1 mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent / rank 62 - incl. EU27 on rank 4). The emissions projections for Kenya were derived by downscaling the Shared Socio-Economic Pathways’ (SSPs) “Middle-of-the-Road” baseline marker scenario SSP2. These pathways describe certain narratives of socio-economic developments and were, i.a., used to derive greenhouse gas emissions scenarios that correspond to these developments. SSP2 is a narrative with little shifts in socio-economic patterns compared to historical ones, and is connected to medium socio-economic challenges for both climate mitigation and adaptation. While different models were used for each storyline, per SSP (SSPs1-5) one model was chosen as representative “marker scenario”. As the emissions projections are not readily available on country-level, but national estimates are important, the pathways were downscaled in the aftermath. In 2017, Kenya represented 0.66% of the global population. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 were 0.13% of the global GDP.

Looking at the highest contributing emissions sectors and gases separately, we find that in 2017 the highest contributing emissions sectors were Agriculture and Energy (48.0% and 41.7%). Amongst the greenhouse gases that are considered in the Kyoto Protocol, the strongest contributor with 53.1% was CH4. This was followed by CO2 emissions, with a share of 26.5%. When not considering the sectors and gases independently, but the sector-gas combinations instead, Agriculture CH4 and Energy CO2 (30.6% and 20.5%) represented the largest emissions in 2017.

Greenhouse gas mitigation and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)

In 2015, the majority of countries agreed to the Paris Agreement (PA), with the goal of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (Article 2.1.a). Countries stated their pledges and targets towards achieving the PA’s goals in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With Article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement, Parties decided that “Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

In its updated 2020 NDC, Kenya communicates that “Compared to our first NDC target of 30 % emission reduction, our updated NDC commits to abate GHG emissions by 32% by 2030 relative to the BAU scenario of 143 MtCO2eq [SAR]; and in line with our sustainable development agenda and national circumstances. The timeframe for implementation of the NDC is up to 2030, with milestone targets at 2025.” (NDC, p. 1). Furthermore, the country indicates that “Compared to our first NDC which was fully conditional to support, Kenya commits to mobilize resources to meet 13% of this budget, and will require international support for 87% of the budget.” (NDC, p. 2). For the mitigation part of the NDC, the shares are 21% unconditional, and 79% conditional (NDC, p. 10).

Kenya’s projected BAU emissions for the target year 2030 are 143 MtCO2eq SAR (inclLU), with the projection’s reference year being 2010 (NDC, p. 10). The BAU’s underlying GWP used to aggregate emissions from different gases is not clearly stated in Kenya’s 2020 NDC, as the country indicates that “global warming potentials (GWP) for a 100-year time horizon from the IPCCs fifth Assessment Report will be used to calculate CO2 equivalents.” (NDC, p. 13), however, it does not state which GWPs are currently used. As the BAU emissions of 143 MtCO2eq equal Kenya’s previous NDC, in which the GWP was presented to follow the IPCC SAR, we assume this to still be true (NDC2016, p. 3). As for the sectoral contributions to Kenya’s national emissions, “In 2015, the leading source of emissions was agriculture at 40% of the total national emissions, mostly due to livestock enteric fermentation, manure left on pasture and agricultural soils and fertilizer application. This was closely followed by LULUCF at 38% because of deforestation and energy, including transport at 18%. The balance from industrial processes and product use (IPPU) at 3% and waste management at 1%. However, projections show that by 2030, energy will be the leading contributor to emissions because of increased consumption of fossil fuels in generating electricity, meeting domestic, commercial and industrial heating demands and for transportation.” (NDC, p. 6). Based on the given BAU emissions, we can quantify the absolute target emissions (inclLU) to amount to 133 MtCO2eq SAR (-6.7%) in the unconditional case, and to 97 MtCO2eq SAR (-32%) in the conditional case. The availability of national estimates of emissions mitigation targets and pathways in line with countries’ NDCs is of great importance when, e.g., aggregating to global emissions to then derive, i.a., the resulting end-of-century warming levels.

The target is “economy-wide” and “covers all sectors and greenhouse gases”, with all main IPCC emissions sectors (Energy, IPPU, Agriculture, LULUCF, and Waste) explicitly listed as covered (NDC, p. 11). Even though Kenya states that all greenhouse gases are covered, it additionally indicates that CO2, CH4, and N2O are covered, while “The following gases, which are currently negligible, may be included in the Updated NDC: perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).” (NDC, p. 11). Based on PRIMAP-hist v2.1 HISTCR (exclLU, in AR4), the national share of F-gases in 2017’ emissions only represented 0.2%, without data available for SF6 and NF3.

Concerning LULUCF, the country has put in place policies to reduce emissions form deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) (NDC, p. 7). Furthermore, amongst Kenya’s priority mitigation activities (NDC, p. 10), it states “Making progress towards achieving a tree cover of at least 10% of the land area of Kenya; Make efforts towards achieving land degradation neutrality; Scaling up Nature Based Solutions (NBS) for mitigation; Enhancement of REDD+ activities”, and to “Harness the mitigation benefits of the sustainable blue economy, including coastal carbon Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).” (NDC, p. 10). The country additionally provides information on the included LULUCF categories and carbon pools (NDC, p. 11), as well as on accounting rules (NDC, p. 13-14).

Kenya mentions that “The mitigation co-benefits of the adaptation actions will be included in the mitigation contribution of this NDC.” (NDC, p. 9), and regarding Article 6 of the PA (cooperation and markets), the country plans that “In the event that Kenya’s enhanced NDC Target is exceeded, Kenya intends to use the both market and non-market provisions mechanisms provisions of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, based on domestic legislation developed.” (NDC, p. 11).

The NDC-assessment is based on Kenya’s NDC submitted to the UNFCCC in December 2020.

The Figure below provides additional information, regarding both the baseline emissions used in our assessment and the quantified mitigated pathways for Kenya.

Baseline emissions and mitigated emissions pathways based on the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution. In terms of national emissions, we look at the SSP2 baseline marker scenario, and the emissions of all IPCC sectors. Contributions from LULUCF are excluded (exclLU), and the emissions are based on GWPs from AR4. The left panel (a) shows the baseline emissions, indicating the contributions of the Kyoto Greenhouse Gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and the basket of F-gases to the national emissions. If we could extract baseline data exclLU from the NDC, you can see their values as black squares (converted from GWP SAR to AR4 if needed). In the right panel (b), the quantified mitigated emissions pathways are shown, based on information from the country’s NDC and also on non-NDC emissions baselines, per target conditionality and range (marked un-/conditional best/worst). Even though not all countries have targets with different conditionalities or ranges, we need assumptions for all four cases to build one global pathway per conditionality plus range combination and to derive corresponding temperature estimates. Therefore, we indicate these four pathways here. Per combination, we performed several quantifications with differing assumptions and show the median and the minimal and maximal pathways here. Additionally, if we could quantify the targets based on data extracted purely from the NDC - or if the targets were directly given in absolute emissions, these targets are shown as squares (in the GWP originally given in the NDC).


Data sources and further information

  • Historical emissions: PRIMAP-hist v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2016, 2019).
  • Historical socio-economic data: PRIMAP-hist Socio-Eco v2.1 (Guetschow et al., 2019).
  • Projected emissions and socio-economic data: downscaled SSPs (Guetschow et al., 2020, 2020).
  • NDC quantifications: NDCmitiQ (Guenther et al., 2020, 2021).
  • GDP is given in purchasing power parity (PPP).
  • Main emissions sectors (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC): Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture and LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry), also named AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use), and Waste.
  • Kyoto GHG: basket of several GHGs, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and since the second Kyoto Protocol period (2013-20) additionally nitrogen fluoride (NF3).
  • Global Warming Potentials (GWPs): GHGs have very different warming potentials. To make them comparable and for aggregation purposes, GWPs are used (how much energy will 1 ton of a certain gas absorb over a defined period of time, relative to the same mass of CO2?).


1 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), 14473 Potsdam, Germany