Case study of government response to climate change: Kenya

By Matt Burdett, 15 March 2018

On this page, we look at Kenya as a case study of government-led responses to climate change.

Climate change in Kenya: the solution?

Climate change responses can generally be split into two types: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation means trying to reduce the impact of climate change, while adaptation means changing the response to climate change – either before, during or after it happens. As shown in the graph below, Kenya is going to have to adapt rather than mitigate because it is such a small emitter of greenhouse gases. It therefore has very little influence on overall emissions and cannot unilaterally stop or reduce climate change. Kenya’s main efforts will be to respond to the climate change issue rather than stop or reduce it.

  • Tonnes of CO2 per capita, annually. Source: Datablog, 2009.

The Kenyan government recognises it vulnerability to climate change. In the short term, it assists people with emergency food aid (with the help of international donors). In the period 2004-09, around US$200 million worth of assistance was provided to between 3.5-4.5 million people (UNDP, 2017a).

Policy responses

Kenya recognises the need for a long-term strategy. For this reason, it participates in the East African Community Climate Change Policy, Masterplan. and Strategy along with other East African countries (EAC, n.d.). This regional approach is operating for the period 2011-2031, and aims to provide a guide for governments as to how to deal with the specific aspects of climate change that affect East Africa, including (UNDP, 2017):

  • 3.1 Adaptation and Building Resilience
  • 3.2 Mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • 3.3 Enabling Policy, Legal and Institutional Framework
  • 3.4 Addressing Cross-cutting Issues that Adversely Impact Climate-Smart Agriculture

Kenya’s specific policy response is guided by the National Climate Change Framework Policy and the Kenyan development strategy known as ‘Vision 2030’. Vision 2030 includes several ‘pillars’ including economic and social development. Environmental issues are included in the Social Pillar, such as (UNDP, n.d.):

  • Conservation, pollution and waste management
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Adapting to climate change
  • Environmental planning

Such policies are essential as Kenya is currently having to spend around US$500 million per year in response to climate change (including food aid etc.) and this could rise to over US$1 billion by 2030 (Mwanga, 2015).

Project responses

Under the co-ordination of these policies, Kenya is engaged in several projects that aim to reduce the impacts of climate change. These policies are led by many different groups, including both the Kenyan government and international agencies such as the United Nations and charities. A few examples are presented here.

WFP and UNIDO’s ‘Africa Adaptation Programme’

This three-year project was launched in 2008 with a US$92 million grant from the Japanese government (UNDP, n.d.c). It focused on the government’s ability to lead the climate change response. In Kenya it spent US$5 million on training people working in government institutions on how to develop a national approach to adaptation to climate change (UNDP, n.d.a), resulting in the formation of the National Climate Change Secretariat which coordinates government departments in their work on climate change. This extended into several areas including producing and broadcasting documentaries on television about climate change.

World Bank and UNDP’s ‘Adaptation to Climate Change in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (KACCAL)’

This project has a specific reference to people in dry areas of Kenya and their preparations for climate change (UNDP, n.d.a). The project was paid for through the Special Climate Change Fund, with the World Bank responsible for spending US$5 million and the UNDP US$1 million on developing ways for a variety of groups to deal with climate change, including cattle farmers and subsistence farmers.

The project specifically looked at (UNDP, n.d.b):

  • Improving irrigation technology
  • Planting 80,000 trees which help local people through nutrition, and sale of fruit
  • Reintroducing livestock that are resilient to climate change. Each of the 20 farmers in the project were given enough money to buy three hybrid dairy goats (2 female and 1 male) which are more tolerant to drought
  • Promoting indigenous crops (rather than those which were imported for monoculture)

UNICEF’s ‘Child-Friendly Schools Initiative’

This project aims to improve the adaptive capacity of some of the poorest people in Kenya by integrating social and educational development (UNDP, n.d.a). It is not specifically aimed solely at creating resilience against climate change, but improving the conditions of the poorest will help them to cope with climate change. There are five specific issues that are addressed:

  • Education
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Health
  • Protection of vulnerable children
  • Community participation

The project includes mobile health teams that can monitor nutrition and provide vaccinations. The key is that it puts the child at the centre of the system, so that a problem in one area (such as not being healthy) is prevented from causing a problem in another area (such as not being able to go to school to receive an education).


Datablog, 2009. Carbon emissions per person, by country. Accessed 8 February 2018.

EAC [East African Community], n.d. EAC Climate Change Policy Framework. Accessed 15 March 2018.

Mwanga, 2015. Effects of Climate Change and Global Warming in Kenya Accessed 12 March 2018.

UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], 2017. Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy – 2017-2026. Via Accessed 12 March 2018.

UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], n.d.a. In-depth. Accessed 12 March 2018.

UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], n.d.b. Mitigating Impact of Climate Change in Kenya’s Arid Lands. Accessed 12 March 2018.

UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], n.d.c. Africa Adaptation Programme: Introduction. Accessed 15 March 2018.

Case study of government response to climate change: Kenya: Learning activities


  1. What is the short-term response to climate change in Kenya? [2]
  2. Outline the Kenyan government’s policy response to climate change. [6]
  3. Referring to examples, describe ways in which Kenya is responding to climate change. [6]
  4. Does the number of non-Kenyan agencies working on climate change in the country suggest that Kenya will have more or less adaptive capacity in the future? Explain your answer. [5]
  5. Which do you think is the most important factor in determining Kenya’s vulnerability to climate change: exposure, sensitivity or adaptive capacity? Explain your answer. [6]

Other tasks

Complete the final part of this table:


Other country

Climate change predictions

Potential problems of climate change

Mitigating strategies

© Matthew Burdett, 2018. All rights reserved.

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