Kenya’s road to net zero carbon emissions


Over the past ten years, Kenya’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased from 7.82 million tonnes to 16.15 million tonnes, recording the highest levels of CO2 in the country. Carbon dioxide helps keep the Earth habitable and warm, but its rise has negative consequences for our environment and ecosystems. Carbon dioxide is one of the most prevalent and dangerous greenhouse gases. High levels of carbon dioxide are attributed to issues like climate change, acid rain and air pollution.

The rise of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases threatens the healthy production of basic human necessities like food and water. Acid rain will result in poor crops and animal farming and eventually lead to the destruction of trees and nutrients in the soil. Air pollution is already one of the top ten risk factors causing death in Kenya, causing higher rates of lung, skin and gastrointestinal cancers. The increase in greenhouse gases is the main cause of climate change globally, resulting in extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

Greenhouse gases have been attributed to climate change, which has been affecting Kenya’s weather patterns since July 2022, as Kenya recorded one of its coldest weather seasons ever in 2022. Cold weather has been recorded to be a serious problem that kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study (funded by the UK Medical Research Council) analysing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries.

The Kenya 2050 Calculator (Kenya Carbon Emission Reduction Tool-KCERT 2050) is a tool created by @iLabAfrica’s Data Science department’s business intelligence analysts Jeremy Gachanja and Alvin Igobwa. This system, which forecasts the country’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases, is designed to assist Kenya in combating climate change and achieving its net zero emissions goals by the year 2050.

The calculator tracks and analyses different carbon emissions in specific areas. It can determine the severity of emissions and identify the source of carbon emissions (e.g. burning of fossil fuels or emissions from transportation systems). The calculator also tracks the sources of carbon emissions (transportation, buildings, electricity) with detailed statistics on the specific causes of these emissions. For example, railways, heavy goods vehicles, and private transportation account for the majority of transportation emissions.

Such information will allow policymakers and other end-users to assess how various sectors of the economy can be decarbonized by reducing harmful emissions whilst meeting energy needs.

Kenyans in heavily industrialized areas like Athi River and Dandora have complained about air pollution, giving KCERT the opportunity to mitigate air pollution in these areas. A new study by Jason West, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, found that reducing gas emissions may save the lives of more than two million people annually. This process of reducing or eliminating emissions of harmful gasses is known as De-carbonization. Reducing these emissions will decrease the rates of air pollution and improve air quality which in return prevents deaths and health issues like cancer and asthma, while improving Kenya’s health standards.

The KCERT tool aims to tackle and reduce the impacts of climate change. This will help the government avoid the runaway costs of climate change attributed to the destruction of property from adverse weather conditions. It will also improve public health and provide benefits to farmers by avoiding the most severe consequences of weather changes.

The calculator is a uniquely open, transparent, and interactive energy model that will help environmentalists understand how to decarbonize a region or country. Alvin took the lead role in creating the Web Interface of KCERT while Jeremy took on the lead role in the excel modelling of the tool. They both worked tirelessly throughout the project lasting eleven months, surpassing the completion timelines of other countries. Kenya is the third country in the world and the first country in East Africa to launch the 2050 Calculator on the 20th of July 2022. The tool is very well calibrated and will help the government implement strategies to decarbonize the country.

Jeremy Gachanja will attend a climate change conference in the UK to discuss the different experiences nations have had in developing the tool. He plans to present the paper detailing how the KCERT tool can be used in the mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the policy applications that KCERT the tool has.

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