The green Africans serious about global warming: Where tiny Comoros beats Ethiopia, and S. Africa hides

African countries are the least emmitters of harmful gases, but have set themselves huge targets in cuts. Major polluters might want to look away now.

SOUTH Africa, the continent’s most industrialised country—and by extension its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases - this week handed in its plans on how to fight climate change ahead of a major UN meeting in December that will seek a deal that will commit all nations to take action on climate change.

The country in its submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said emissions of greenhouse gases will reach a peak between 2020 and 2025, and remain flat for another 10 years, before it begins to cut them, it said.

Like many other countries, it argued that it had a priority to address poverty. “South Africa is investing heavily in transforming its energy sector. In the short term, up to 2025, South Africa faces significant rigidity in its economy, and any policy-driven transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society must take into account and emphasise its overriding priority to address poverty and inequality.”

But it also agreed that greenhouse gases (GHG) threaten the planet. “South Africa has observed and is projecting further trends of marked temperature increases, rainfall variation and rising sea levels as well as an increased frequency of severe weather events,” it said. “Those who have a greater responsibility for cumulative emissions that have driven up GHG concentrations in the atmosphere should, as a matter of fairness, assist those less responsible.”

The continent emits the least amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, but bears the brunt of their scientifically-proven effects on the environment.

South Africa becomes the latest to submit what are termed Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)—plans on what states are willing to do to combat the harmful gases. So far some  52 countries have detailed their action plan ahead of the search for Paris agreement that would come into effect in 2020. 

Governments agreed to submit their INDCs ahead of the conference, with no going back on their national climate plans.

Of the 18 African countries that have so far complied with submission,  Ethiopia was first out of the blocks, putting forward the most radical targets at the time, proposing to cut emissions by two-thirds by 2030.

Addis Ababa set a target to reduce GHGs by 64% —the most ambitious plan that had been submitted to the UNFCCC at the time. This would be through adopting cleaner practices in agriculture, construction and transport—at a time when it has been developing mega-infrastructure projects—as well as slowing deforestation.

South Africa’s plan was notable for its lack of a target, but other African countries have been more forthright with theirs, and some are a real statement of intent.


It’s national emissions represent just 0.2% of global emissions, but the country is particularly vulnerable due to its island location. It plans to reduce harmful gas emissions by 14% by 2030, with a focus on renewable and more efficient energy, climate smart agriculture. It will also increase absorption including through reforestation.
For this it has put forward a $6billion bill.


Will reduce GHG emissions by 15% by 2030, and says if externally funded can raise this to 45%. It says it needs $22.6 billion in the 10 years to 2030, with $6.3 billion from domestic sources, and the balance to be funded externally. its focus would be on sustainable land use and forest management, climate proof infrastructure and energy efficiency and renewable sources.


Targets a 22.3% reduction between 2020 and 2030 and says it needs $17 billion, with $9.4 billion for adaptation, and $8.2 billion for mitigation. These reductions would largely be from energy and agriculture.

Equatorial Guinea

Plans to reduce emissions by 20% over the next 15 years by 2030, and by 2050 bring this down by 50%—but all dependent on climate financing and technical support. Its targeted savings would come from energy, transport and agriculture. For this it says it need $3.7 billion.


The archipelago of just 750,000 people plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in 2020 rising to 84% by 2030, dependent on external financing availability. It puts the bill at $675 million, with 10% coming from internal sources. If nothing is done, it says the cost of climate-related impact on its agriculture-dependent economy would rise to$836 million by 2050, or 130% of its current GDP. This is despite it accounting for just 0.00045% of global emissions.


Proposes to cut emissions by 41% in 2030, relative to the base year of 2010. The mitigation efforts will centre on energy, which it says is responsible for 75% of emissions. Towards this it seeks $18 billion, with 10% coming from national coffers. It also needs an addition $2 billion for mitigation, or a total bill of $20 billion.

Ivory Coast

The West African nation seeks to cut emissions by between 28% and 36% by 2020 according to its national strategy against climate change, and by focusing on agriculture and a shift to clean energy. The country is seeking $3.5 billion until 2020.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Central African nation has set an emissions reduction target of 17% in the 10 years to 2030, with gains to be achieved from focusing on agriculture, forestry and energy. The former employs 70% of its 75 million population. It is seeking $21.6 billion, with adaptation accounting for $9 billion and mitigation $12.5 billion.


Because of its rich forest cover, Benin is in the unique position of absorbing more carbon than it releases—what is called a carbon sink (Africa is a net carbon sink), but it notes its absorption capacity has declined 32% since 2000, while emissions have gone up 23% in the same period.
It is seeking $30 billion to reduce emissions and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, $2 billion of which would be the government’s contribution.


Estimates 3% in GDP losses due to climate hazards such as droughts and floods over the years, despite contributing just 0.1% of global emissions. It is seeking to cut emissions by 30% by 2030, a target it says is in line with its sustainable development agenda, and subject to international support. Gains would be from clean energy, reforestation and low carbon infrastructure. But for this, it wants $40 billion to mitigate and adapt.


Has a commitment to cut GHG emissions by 32% to 2030, and seeks $45 billion, with $35 billion of this to be met by external partners. If it is to attain this target, energy is expected to contribute the bulk of the gains


Under its growth plan that covers 2010-2025, the Central African nation had set a target of 16% emission reductions, and says it will extend its projections to 2030. It is another carbon sink—the country is 88% covered by forest, and absorbs four more times the carbon dioxide it emits.


With external support, says emissions cuts could reach 21% in 2030, with own measures accounting for 5%. It is seeking $21.5 billion to adapt and mitigate under its growth blueprint that runs to 2035, with the former taking up an estimated $14.6 billion.


The Island nation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 21.4% over the next 10 years, and 29% by 2030. The country has one of the lowest bills—$309 million and says it will remain a net sink with just 0.003% of global emissions


Targets a reduction of between 7-22% by 2030, with the lower band of 7% being funded internally and the rest dependent on financing from outside.


Over the next 15 years, the Horn of Africa nation says emissions could be cut by as much as 80.6% if externally funded, and 39.2% for own resources. For full mitigation and adaptation it needs $7.2 billion over the next fifteen years.

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