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Ambition gap

What is Democratic Republic of the Congoʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1.5°C compatible pathways

The DRC’s 2017 INDC proposed only a conditional 17% GHG emissions reduction target below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2035. In contrast, the country’s 2021 NDC is composed of a 19% conditional and 2% unconditional GHG emission reduction target below BAU levels by 2030. If the 19% conditional target is translated using the reference year of 2015 then the target would be expressed as 92% above 2015 by 2030, or around 275 MtCO₂e/yr (excl. LULUCF). The NDC provides general mitigation actions which are intended to contribute to quantified emissions reduction targets but lacks a quantified breakdown for each mitigation action. Actions are listed for the energy, agriculture, LULUCF, and waste sectors. No actions are listed for the industrial processes sector as its contribution to the DRC‘s GHG emissions balance is minimal. Implementation of DRC’s NDC is conditional on financial support, with an estimated cost of 48.68 billion USD of which 25.60 billion USD would be needed for mitigation measures.1

In contrast to DRC’s conditional NDC target when excluding LULUCF, 1.5°C compatible pathway indicates that the DRC’s domestic emissions reductions would need to be 14% below 2015 levels or 124 MtCO₂e/yr (excl. LULUCF) by 2030.

LULUCF is an important sector for the DRC, contributing 75% of total emissions (in 2018). When excluding LULUCF, emissions are predominantly driven by methane (95% in 2018) mostly due to the waste sector. When including LULUCF, the waste sector contributes 23% to total emissions. The largest share of CO₂ emissions comes from the LULUCF sector, driven mainly by deforestation. Energy is a minor source of emissions (1% in 2018 incl. LULUCF) in the country.

Long term pathway

As of January 2022, the DRC has not submitted its long-term strategy. 1.5°C compatible pathway indicates that the DRC will need its GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF) to fall in the range of 9% to 51% below 2015 levels by 2050.19 When LULUCF emissions are excluded, these emissions reductions will be mostly driven by efforts in the waste sector, the major driver of CH₄ emissions, constituting the highest share (95% in 2018) of the country’s emissions.

LULUCF emissions account for the majority (75% in 2018) of the country’s emissions. In 2008, the DRC shifted from being a net carbon sink to a net carbon source.3 If significant action is not taken, the DRC could lose about 10% of its forest area by 2030 and 15-20% by 2050.3 Though the DRC is currently a net carbon source, its immense forest cover of around 152 million ha, in 2010, gives it the potential to become a sink again.11

1 Democratic Republic of the Congo. Contribution Déterminée à l’échelle Nationale révisée. (2021).

2 African Development Bank. National Climate Change Profile: Democratic Republic of the Congo. (2018).

3 Ministère de l’Environnement et Développement Durable. Troisième Communication Nationale de la République Démocratique du Congo à la Convention Cadre sur le Changement Climatique. (2015).

4 African Energy Commission (AFREC). AFREC Africa Energy Balances 2019. (2019).

5 African Energy Commission (AFREC). Africa Energy Efficiency for the Residential Sector 2019. (2019).

6 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Atlas of Africa Energy Resource. (2017).

7 Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). Democratic Republic of the Congo. (2019).

8 International Energy Agency (IEA). Data and statistics: Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2018. (2022).

9 Radio France Internationale. RDC: l’immense enjeu et problème de l’accès à l’électricité. (2019).

10 World Bank. State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2019. State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2019 (2019). doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1435-8.

11 Democratic Republic of the Congo. Contribution déterminée au niveau national de la République Démocratique du Congo. (2017).

12 IEA. Africa Energy Outlook 2019. (2019).

13 African Energy Commission (AFREC). AFREC Africa Energy Database. (2019).

14 The World Bank. World Development Indicators database. (2019).

15 Ministère du Plan. Fiche technique sur l’énergie. (2021).

16 Kusakana, K. A Review of Energy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. in International Conference on Desalination and Renewable Energy (ICDRE) (2016).

17 The assessment was made based on Figure 2 provided in DRC‘s 2021 NDC document.

18 See assumptions at https://1p5ndc-pathways.climateanalytics.org/methodology/#ndc_cod

19 Global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C tend to include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches, and often rely on rather conservative assumptions in the development of renewable energy technologies. This tends to result in greater reliance on technological CDR than if a faster transition to renewables were achieved. The scenarios available at the time of this analysis focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology, and our downscaling methods do not yet take national BECCS potentials into account.

Methodology

Democratic Republic of the Congoʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−50%0%50%100%19902010203020502070
Reference year
2015
1.5°C emissions level
−14%
NDC (conditional)
+92%
Ambition gap
−106%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
NDC (conditional)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2015
143MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

The DRC’s primary energy mix contains a very small share of fossil fuels at 2%, exclusively from oil, and has a very high share of renewables at 98%, consisting of approximately 95% biomass and 3% non-biomass renewables, in 2017. This is mostly due to the use of fuelwood and charcoal for domestic and industrial application, a contributing factor to deforestation in the DRC.

1.5°C compatible pathway shows that the share of non-biomass renewables in the DRC’s primary energy mix will need to scale up from 3% in 2017 to around 30% in 2040, and almost 50% by 2050. While the share of biomass decreases across time, it is also playing an important role in decarbonising the primary energy, still present in some models with 20-60% of shares in 2050. A shift away from traditional biomass towards a higher uptake of non-biomass renewables would reduce the need for such technologies. This shift would also address negative health and sustainability implications which are linked to the use of traditional biomass, such as wood and charcoal. Many of our analysed pathways show the penetration of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technologies in the energy mix in order to achieve negative emissions. BECCS is currently not available at scale, and the cost of these technologies makes it an unlikely uptake option to decarbonise the economy. Models have also rather conservative assumptions in the development of renewable energy technologies resulting in greater reliance on technological CDR than if a faster transition to renewables were achieved.

Exploitation of the DRC’s significant hydropower resources combined with decentralised renewable energy sources could provide an alternative to the DRC’s heavy reliance on biofuels and waste for energy though this is dependent on significant financial investment, improved maintenance of infrastructure, and technical capacity building.

Methodology

Democratic Republic of the Congoʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020504 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Democratic Republic of the Congoʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−20−100102019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
2015
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
143
185
124
87 to 153
113
79 to 143
116
70 to 131
Relative to reference year in %
−14%
−40 to 7%
−21%
−45 to 0%
−19%
−51 to −8%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
11
13
14
11 to 15
9
4 to 14
5
1 to 13
2066
2054
Relative to reference year in %
25%
−3 to 39%
−19%
−60 to 22%
−59%
−87 to 16%

Footnotes