National 1.5°C compatible emissions pathways and consistent power sector benchmarks in Africa

This report presents domestic emissions pathways required to keep to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit for eight African countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. These pathways, assessed with other lines of scientific evidence, exhibit how these countries can update their 2030 targets (NDCs) and develop long-term, low-carbon development strategies in line with the Paris Agreement, living up to their promises to prevent dangerous climate change. This report draws on the analyses from the 1.5°C national pathway explorer for the eight countries.


Africa, one of the most vulnerable continents, has contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) globally. The spotlight will be on the region in 2022 with Egypt hosting the UN climate summit COP27 at the end of the year. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century is imperative to reduce impacts of climate change, especially on the most vulnerable communities. This study aims at providing key decarbonisation benchmarks necessary for countries to align with 1.5°C compatible pathways.

In 2019, the continent’s share of global emissions was around 7%, excluding the emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The biggest emitters in the region are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and Ethiopia. Since 1990, however, Africa’s emissions (excluding LULUCF) have increased faster than the global average. The energy sector is the largest source of emissions in Africa excluding LULUCF, making up about 55% of the total in 2019, followed by agriculture. Without stronger commitments to low-carbon growth and sufficient support from developed countries, Africa’s emissions could increase substantially.

LULUCF emissions play an important role in Africa, contributing an estimated 2.2 GtCO2e to the continent’s emissions, about 40% of total emissions. Africa is home to about one fifth of the world’s forests. Forests are critical resources for many communities, with over 60% of Africans directly or indirectly dependent on forests in their everyday life. However, between 2015 and 2020, Africa lost up to 4.4 million hectares of forest per year, driven primarily by shifting agriculture.

Coal-based power generation dominated the power mix in Africa up until about nine years ago, when it was overtaken by gas-based power generation. Coal still accounted for around 30% of the continent’s power mix in 2019. As of July 2021, there is around 49GW of installed coal capacity across the continent and the current pipeline of new coal power plants is close to half of it. While most of the operating capacities are located in South Africa and Morocco, future coal expansion is expected to be more distributed, with capacity increasing in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. The majority of gas power plants are still relatively young and are still expected to be running in the coming decades.

As the world engages on a transition to a low carbon economy, the expected impact on fossil fuel producers is reduced demand and lower prices for their products. Companies and investors are starting to take these risks into account in their strategy and make divestment decisions considering the financial risks in the context of decarbonisation. When looking at the top nine petrostates dependant on oil and gas revenues, more than 370 million people (of which over half are in Nigeria) could be at risk of being impacted by decreasing fossil fuel demand.

A recurring argument that African countries should leap-frog fossil fuelled developmental stages and move directly to the use of renewables has become louder as renewables have become cheaper to deploy. Countries will need to implement innovative ideas to ensure a just transition to low-carbon societies. Both the opportunities and costs (social, economic) of the transition must be fairly distributed, so that no particular group of people is disadvantaged in comparison to others, merely because they have been hitherto employed in fossil fuel extraction or related carbon-intensive industries.

Cost-effective and 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathways indicate that total global greenhouse gas emissions peak around 2020 and decrease rapidly, reducing CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 globally. In the Middle-East and Africa region, these pathways reach net zero CO2 by 2050 and net zero GHG by 2070. The analysis of the regional implications for coal from 19 Paris compatible modelled pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C indicates that coal should be phased out in Middle-East and Africa by 2034 (median value, ranging between 2031 and 2042 across the different pathways).

Scaling up international finance in Africa is needed to support decarbonisation and help unlock ambition. In 2020, only 3% of total climate finance commitments (domestic and international) went to Africa and the Middle East, and climate finance is not necessarily distributed between countries in a way that reflects their needs. At COP26, the African Group of negotiators along with a group of 24 “like minded” countries, opened discussions on the post-2025 climate finance goal, pushing developed countries to commit to mobilise USD 1.3 trillion per year. As discussions on the new goal continue this year, it is clear that a substantial increase in the availability and accessibility of funding will be required for countries in Africa to reduce their emissions in line with domestic pathways compatible with the Paris Agreement.