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[NAIROBI] Kenya's planned development path will more than double its carbon emissions unless efforts are taken to pursue low carbon development, according to an environmental think tank.

Yet the country has high potential for mitigating climate change because it has significant opportunities to use renewable energy, says a report released by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI).

Kenya emits relatively low levels of carbon because it has an electricity generation system based on renewable energy and widespread use of biomass for household energy generation, the report says.

But its Vision 2030 plan — which could see a ten per cent rise in economic growth each year and a doubled population by 2030 — would increase carbon emissions from 42 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005 to 91 in 2030.

This is because the plan involves investment in infrastructure based around private car use, for example, and the introduction of coal in electricity generation which could potentially offset plans to use geothermal energy and import hydropower from other countries.

But Kenya can leverage many areas to achieve a green path to the same level of economic development, the report says.

For example, huge biomass and hydro resources could be exploited for off-grid and mini-grid generation to power the 35 per cent of households that national electrification forecasts show will be connected by the year 2020.

And biomass — which will still provide around 60 per cent of household energy requirements in 2030 — is another opportunity to reduce emissions by improving stove efficiency and expanding the use of biogas.

The government's policy – not only to preserve its forest cover but to increase large scale reforestation and afforestation drives – also puts the country in good stead, says the report.

A separate SEI analysis, in consultation with the government of Kenya, affirms that the country is planning annually to invest about US$385 million for the next 20 years to boost forest cover from the current three per cent of land to ten per cent.

But Kenya will also have to deal with the headache of a rapidly growing transport sector, expected to be a key driver of carbon, because of increasing demand for private car travel and a ballooning second hand car industry.

The report, released late last year, was funded by the UK International Department for International Development (DFID) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).