Kenya – spearheading low emissions development in Africa

Stephen King’uyu, Coordinator of Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan and co-chair of our Africa LEDS Partnership, describes the passage of a major climate change law in his country.

On 6 May, Kenya’s Climate Change Act, 2016 became law. President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to Kenya’s Climate Change Bill, 2014 after it was approved by both houses of Parliament (the National Assembly and the Senate). This Act provides a framework for action that promotes low carbon, climate resilient development in Kenya, and is an important milestone on the country’s path towards developing its economy while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The outcomes will include:

  • mainstreaming climate change responses into development planning, decision making and implementation
  • formulating programs and plans to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of human and ecological systems to the impacts of climate change
  • reinforcing climate change disaster risk reduction in strategies and actions of public and private entities
  • mainstreaming intergenerational gender equity in all aspects of climate change responses
  • providing incentives and obligations for private sector contributions to achieving low carbon climate resilient development
  • promoting low carbon technologies to improve efficiency and reduce emissions intensity
  • mobilizing and transparently managing public and other financial resources for climate change responses
  • providing mechanisms to facilitate climate change research and development, training, and capacity building
  • mainstreaming the principle of sustainable development into planning and decision making on climate change responses
  • integrating climate change into the exercise of power and functions of all levels of governance, and enhancing cooperative climate change governance between national and county governments.

The Act establishes a National Climate Change Council, chaired by the President, and provides an overarching national climate change coordination mechanism.

In a related development, Kenya’s National Climate Change Framework Policy was validated on 23 September 2014 (See Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2013) ‘Kenya launches a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP).’ The Framework Policy complements and reinforces the actions called for in the new Climate Change Act, providing the environment for its implementation.

Regional context

Kenya is one of the first countries in Africa, and among only a few globally, to enact a comprehensive law and policy to guide national and subnational responses to climate change. This fulfils a major recommendation of Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan, which recommended a standalone policy and legal framework for climate change. The Climate Change Act demonstrates the seriousness with which the country approaches climate change matters, with its high level National Climate Change Council, chaired by the country’s President. The Council is tailored to be as inclusive as possible, with representatives of non-state actors including the private sector, civil society, and the ‘marginalised community’ in addition to representation from key national and subnational government institutions. Actions of other leading African countries are extensively documented in the The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study: A Review of Climate Change Legislation in 99 Countries.

Lessons learned

A major lesson learned from the process of developing Kenya’s Climate Change Framework Policy and Bill is the importance of stakeholder involvement and engagement. Governments often focus on stakeholders from outside government at the expense of those within government. The Kenyan experience underlines the importance of bringing on board both categories of stakeholders. Within government, the involvement of Parliament, county governments, and key National government ministries such as the National Treasury, and Devolution and Planning, have proved invaluable. It is also informative that membership of the National Climate Change Council cuts across the whole spectrum of stakeholders, with representation from both government and non-state actors.

Next steps

Now that the Climate Change Bill has become law, the key actions to operationalise it will include:

  • establishing the National Climate Change Council and Climate Change Directorate
  • developing relevant guidelines
  • enacting subsidiary legislation to enable the establishment of a national climate change fund
  • disseminating information on the Act and its implications to stakeholders.

In the run-up to the Paris Agreement, Kenya was one of the first of the African countries to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, anchored to Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan. Going forward, Kenya will seek to mobilise the resources of the government, private sector, and a range of stakeholders from all sectors to convert pledges into concrete action. This will require effective coordination. Kenya’s passage of the Climate Change Act, 2016 is the key to developing a plan for mainstreaming climate change across ministries and sectors.


At the request of Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) engaged six international experts in a review of the draft policy framework and provided extensive comments for strengthening the policy, several of which were adopted in the revised policy and subsequent legislation submitted for Parliamentary approval.

Image: Kenya’s parliament building, courtesy Jorge Lascar.