Short introduction on Uganda’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 48.9 mega tonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2eq), Uganda contributed 0.10% to the global greenhouse gas emissions of 2017 (rank 87 - 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, Uganda’s global contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is projected to stay at a similar level of approximately 0.12% (71.1 mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent / rank 74 - incl. EU27 on rank 4). The emissions projections for Uganda 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, Uganda represented 0.54% of the global population. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 were 0.066% 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 (61.2% and 24.1%). Amongst the greenhouse gases that are considered in the Kyoto Protocol, the strongest contributor with 59.9% was CH4. This was followed by N2O emissions, with a significantly lower share of 28.4%. When not considering the sectors and gases independently, but the sector-gas combinations instead, Agriculture CH4 and Agriculture N2O (35.9% and 25.4%) 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 NDC, the country communicates that “For mitigation, Uganda is to focus on implementation of a series of policies and measures in the energy supply, forestry and wetland sectors. In the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario the estimated emissions in 2030 will be 77.3 Million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent [SAR] per year (MtCO2eq/yr). The estimated potential cumulative impact of the policies and measures could result in approximately 22% reduction of national green house gas emissions in 2030 compared to business-as-usual. Uganda proposes to implement the identified policies and measures, and their impact may be higher or lower than these estimations illustrate.” (NDC, p. 2, GWP: p. 12). The estimated 22% reduction includes LULUCF (NDC, p. 17). Uganda plans an unconditional and conditional contribution, as “the full implementation of the priority adaptation and mitigation strategies is conditional on accessing significant external support (70% of the additional financial resources required for the full implementation of this INDC are dependent on external support).” (NDC, p. 4).

For the energy sector, Uganda states that “By committing to increase Uganda’s renewable energy generation capacity by 2030 and prioritising the construction of enabling infrastructure for the electricity sector, Uganda is not only reducing its emissions by approximately 3.2 Million tons Carbon dioxide equivalent per year , but also enabling greater access to reliable and sustainable energy for the 85% of Uganda’s population that live in rural areas, in turn, improving the livelihoods and health of rural populations.” (NDC, p. 14).

Regarding LULUCF, the country communicates that “Uganda’s greatest mitigation potential is in the land use, land-use change and forestry sectors. Reversing the current deforestation trend (of approximately 14% in 2013) to increase forest cover to 21% in 2030 is highly ambitious considering that 89.5% of the country’s energy needs are currently met by charcoal and firewood. This commitment further highlights the holistic nature of Uganda’s contribution - recognising that the development of the electricity sector is key to achieving the reduction in wood and charcoal burning necessary to reduce deforestation.” (NDC, p. 14). Measures include to “Reverse deforestation trend to increase forest cover to 21% in 2030, from approximately 14% in 2013, through forest protection, afforestation and sustainable biomass production measures.” (NDC, p. 8), and “Increase wetland coverage to 12% by 2030, from approximately 10.9% in 2014, through demarcation, gazettement and restoration of degraded wetlands.” (NDC, p. 9).

Under its BAU scenario, Uganda estimates to emit 77.3 MtCO2eq SAR in 2030, to which LULUCF will contribute about 8 MtCO2eq SAR (NDC, p. 11+18). Following the NDC, “Estimations of potential mitigation impact are approximate, and are presented for indicative purposes only.” (NDC, p. 11). Based on the presented BAU emissions, we calculate the reduction of about 22% to result in target emissions of 60.3 MtCO2eq SAR (inclLU). Assuming 30% of the 22% reduction to be unconditional (6.6% reduction), the estimated target emissions are 72.2 MtCO2eq SAR. 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. It is possible that we misunderstood the contributions and that the 22% reduction is unconditional, as the document states that “The cumulative impact of the policies and measures from the mitigation contribution (section 3.1) could result in approximately 22% reduction of overall national GHG emissions in 2030, including Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry, compared to the business-as-usual (BAU) projection”, and section 3.1 addresses the mitigation contributions in the Energy, Forestry, and Wetland, while section 3.2 considers the “Additional mitigation ambition”. In this case, the unconditional reduction compared to BAU would be 22%, while assuming 30% of the contribution to be unconditional, the total possible reduction would result in much higher reductions of 73.3%, and absolute target emissions of 20.6 MtCO2eq SAR.

Concerning the coverage of Uganda’s mitigation contribution, the unconditional part addresses the main IPCC emissions sectors “energy (excluding transport)” and LULUCF sectors, “in particular forestry and wetlands” (NDC, p. 11). The country informs that “Combined, the energy (excluding transport) and Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry sectors account for approximately 36% of national emissions in 2000, and 26% of emissions in 2030 under Business As Usual. Under the Business As Usual case, the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry sector continues to be a net emitter. The additional mitigation ambition (section 3.2) also covers agriculture and transport. Combined, the transport and agriculture sectors represent a further 62% of national emissions in 2000, and 70% of emissions in 2030 under Business As Usual.” (NDC, p. 11-12). Regarding the covered Kyoto GHGs, Uganda mentions that “All Greenhouse Gases are considered within Greenhouse Gas emission estimates, and expressed in terms of their tons carbon dioxide equivalents (tCO2e) throughout this document.” (NDC, p. 12).

The NDC-assessment is based on Uganda’s NDC submitted to the UNFCCC in September 2016.

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

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