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Ambition gap

What is Kenyaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

Kenya’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets a 32% emissions reduction below BAU by 2030 with 79% of mitigation costs conditional on international support. This translates to a conditional target of 102% above 2010 emission levels or 108 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030, excluding LULUCF.1

With international support, Kenya will be able to implement its domestic emissions pathway and close the gap between its fair share level and domestic emissions level. Paris compatible pathways show emissions levels of 40-53 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 or a reduction of 1-26% below 2010 levels by 2030, excluding LULUCF emissions.

Current policies indicate that Kenya is on track to meeting its conditional NDC commitment. The level of uncertainties on LULUCF emissions might strongly influence the target compatibility with Paris compatible pathways.

Long term pathway

The NDC alludes to net zero target by 2050 noting that it is part of a transformation ‘to a low-emission society by 2050’.5

Cost effective pathways assessed here indicate for Kenya levels of remaining GHG emissions by 2050 of around 37 (31-43) MtCO₂e/yr or 32 (20-42)% below 2010 levels by 2050 excluding LULUCF. On a pathway to reach net zero emissions, Kenya would need to balance its remaining positive emissions through the use of carbon dioxide removal approaches, either from land sinks or from technological options. On a long term pathway, the agriculture sector, even with reduced emissions remains a predominant emitting sector while the energy sector is the first sector to decarbonise thus the need to focus on these areas.

Developing land sinks for Kenya would mean for the country to implement stringent policies to reduce its forest emissions (estimated at a level of around 20 MtCO₂e/yr in 201) driven by deforestation, themselves partly driven by the use of biomass. Implementing policies and increasing energy access and electrification would be beneficial for the country on multiple levels.3,11 Kenya also has a strategy for increasing and maintaining its tree cover at over 10% by 2022 that will go a long way to protect its forest sinks.2,11,22

1 Climate Action Tracker. Kenya | Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

2 Government of Kenya. National Climate Change Action Plan (Kenya) 2018-2022 Volume 3: Mitigation Technical Analysis Report. (2018).

3 Ministry of Energy. Energy Matrix – Ministry of Energy. Ministry of Energy. (2020).

4 Geothermal Development Company. GDC| Geothermal Development Company. Our Story. (2021).

5 Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Kenya’s Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). (2020).

6 Government of Kenya. Third Medium Term Plan: 2018-2022. (2018).

7 National Environmental Tribunal. Save Lamu & others v NEMA in the National Environmental Tribunal. National Environmental Tribunal. (2019).

8 Ministry of Energy & Clean Cooking Association of Kenya. Household Cooking Sector Study: Assessment of the Supply and Demand of Cooking Solutions at the Household Level. (2019).

9 World Bank & CIAT. Climate-Smart Agriculture in Kenya. CSA Country Profiles for Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean Series. (2015).

10 FAO & New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Options for Low-Emission Development in the Kenya Dairy Sector – Reducing enteric methane for food security and livelihoods. (2017).

11 Government of Kenya. National Climate Change Action Plan (Kenya) 2018-2022. (2018).

12 IEA. World Energy Balances 2020 Edition. (2020).

13 Republic of Kenya. Second Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. (2020).

14 Clancy, J., Oparaocha, S. & Roehr, U. Gender equity and renewable energies. Thematic background paper. (2004).

15 Ministry of Energy. National Energy Policy. (2018).

16 Yatani, U. Emissions trading system central to environment goals. Business Daily. (2021).

17 Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contribution. (2016).

18 Government of Kenya. The Energy Act, 2019. (Government Printer, 2019).

19 Government of Kenya. Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan-Kenya 2016-2030. (2016).

20 Government of Kenya. National Sustainable Waste Management Policy. (2021).

21 Government of Kenya. Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy – 2017-2026. (2017).

22 Government of Kenya. National Strategy for Achieving and Maintaining Over 10% Tree Cover by 2022. (2019).

23 International Energy Agency. Access to electricity – SDG7: Data and Projections – Analysis – IEA. SDG7: Data and Projections. (2021).

24 Ngeno, G., Otieno, N., Troncoso, K. & Edwards, R. Opportunities for Transition to Clean Household Energy – Application of the Household Energy Assessment Rapid Tool: Kenya. (2018).

25 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for countries, they underestimate the feasible space for developed countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

26 %’s include stacking which is a common feature of household cooking in Kenya.

27 The ’s do not add up to 100 because of stacking where a large number of households use more than one type.


Kenyaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
Reference year
1.5°C emissions level
NDC (conditional)
NDC (unconditional)
Ambition gap
  • 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
Current policy projections
NDC (conditional)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2010

Energy system transformation

Kenya’s energy system is currently dominated with traditional biomass mostly used for cooking. 2019 data shows traditional biomass at nearly 70%, charcoal at 42%, LPG at 30% and electric cooking at only 2.8%.8,27 While the primary energy is mostly composed of renewables, when excluding biomass which has severe impacts, the share of other renewables reached around 16% in 2017. Paris compatible pathways indicate that although the country would need to maintain LLP, a high level of renewables there will be needed to shift from traditional biomass, reducing its share from around 64% in 2017 by about a third in 2030 and by half by 2040. This can be achieved by increasing energy access and the deployment of electric cooking in households.

The transport sector is also reliant on oil for vehicles and industrial operations as well as in the aviation sector thus the MTPIII, Energy Policy and NCCAP have outlined non-motorised transport, bus-rapid transit, fuel-efficient vehicles, promotion of electric vehicles as well as fuel efficiency in aviation as ways to reduce emissions in this sector.2,6,11,15 Focus on mass transit, electric vehicles and non-motorised transit will be key in achieving the set targets in this sector.

Kenya’s NDC envisages the use of fossil fuels to achieve universal energy access unless international finance is provided to bridge the gap through further development of renewable energy sources.3,5,8 This stands at odds with its abundant renewable energy resources, especially as one of the countries with the most advanced geothermal generating capacity which it plans to increase by about 123% from the current 860 MWe with an additional 1065 MWe by 2030.4

As of 2019, 84% of Kenyans had access to electricity.23 The MTP III and Energy Policy set out to achieve universal access by 2030.6 This will enable transformation to clean cooking especially electric cooking provided awareness, reliability and other underlying factors are addressed.8,24


Kenyaʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020502 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Kenyaʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

  • 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 Kenya. 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
Reference year
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
37 to 50
31 to 40
26 to 39
Relative to reference year in %
−32 to −6%
−42 to −25%
−52 to −27%
Total CO₂
11 to 16
4 to 11
0 to 9
Relative to reference year in %
−8 to 33%
−69 to −6%
−96 to −28%