Ugandans should not be used to demonise our oil prospects 

International lobby groups and civil society organisations have been mobilising against Uganda’s oil and gas projects, especially the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. PHOTO | file  

What you need to know:

According to Kobusheshe, it is important that Ugandans do not allow themselves to be used to demonise the country’s oil and gas projects while other countries continue to use them to prosper.

In my previous writings, I demonstrate why the mob injustice against Uganda’s oil projects, especially protests against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project do not hold water.

There is no doubt that the concentration of greenhouse gas has been rising  since the 1900s, leading to undesirable climate related effects globally. 

Of particular concern has been the sharp increase in carbondioxide, triggered by post world war II industrialisation, creating an upward trend that has not been reversed to date.

The main human activities that generate greenhouse gases are production and use of energy, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, forestry and other land uses, and waste generation.

Globally, carbondioxide from the production and use of energy represents the largest source of human induced greenhouse gases, at approximately 75 percent. International efforts to combat climate change have therefore focused on the production and use of fossil fuels (crude oil, natural gas, and coal) which are the primary source of carbon emissions.

According to the US Environment Protection Agency website:, the US and the EU bloc (including the UK that exited the bloc in 2020), which constitute about 10 percent of world’s population, were responsible for about a quarter (25 percent) of the global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes in 2014.

Ironically, the international environmental activists and media making the most “noise” about stopping Uganda’s oil projects are from these countries. 

To the contrary, Africa, the second largest and second most populous continent, is responsible for just 3 percent of the global carbon emissions.

Altogether, the bottom 100 least emitting countries, which include nearly all the 54 African countries (except South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt), account for less than 5 percent of the global carbon emissions.

Therefore, Africa’s fossil fuel production and consumption to date bears no responsibility for the world’s rapid climate change.

According to the 2019 Uganda First Biennial Update Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Uganda’s emissions in 2015 stood at 90 million tonnes of carbon equivalent. Due to limited access to energy (energy poverty) and significantly lower level of industrialisation, Uganda’s greenhouse gases are dominated by agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

The entire energy sector, which includes transport, electricity generation and oil and gas exploration and production accounts for just 10 percent, of which the transport subsector accounts for about 66 percent of the emissions from energy sector.

Therefore, unlike developed countries whose major source of greenhouse emissions is from burning of fossils for electricity and industry use, Uganda’s largest opportunities for carbon reduction are in the other land uses sector, and not in the energy sector.

If anything, as a country, we still have a challenge of energy poverty that needs to be addressed. The average oil consumption per person in the US is about 20 barrels per year. In Uganda, it is about 0.2 barrels per year. The average consumption per person in the US is, therefore, 100 times fold compared to Uganda.   

Uganda’s oil projects have been designed to generate technologically low carbon footprint and overall, the projects fall within the category of “low emission”.

The carbon equivalent emission per barrel of oil for Uganda’s upstream and midstream projects is estimated to be in the range of 20-45 kilogrames of carbon equivalent, which is well below the global average of 70-100 kilogrames of carbon equivalent. 

It is evident there is an apparent “environmental fashion” being driven by some activists, which does not consider the uniqueness of developing countries such as Uganda, and the African continent in general.

In 2020, the energy (including transport) and industry sectors in the US, powered majorly by fossil fuels, accounted for 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, in Uganda, these sectors account for just 10 percent. 

These statistics demonstrate that there is no one size fits all approach if the world is to tackle this climate change problem.

For example, Uganda’s greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes and products are just 0.55 percent of its total emissions.

Yes, we can decarbonize our industries and products as much as possible, and implement clean development mechanisms, but as a developing country, this category of emissions is expected to increase as Uganda becomes more prosperous through industrialisation.

Likewise, the emissions from the energy sector are expected to increase as more Ugandans access energy and our country moves closer to ending energy poverty.

Uganda, through the Climate Change Secretariat under the Ministry of Water has developed and initiated the implementation of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions to achieve its fair share of a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030.

The priority actions include increasing energy efficiency by replacing the traditional cooking stoves with improved stoves.

Further reductions will even be achieved by the planned use of oil and gas resources to produce Liquified Petroleum Gas, which is a cleaner fuel.

Mitigation measures      

Production of Liquified Petroleum Gas from the country’s oil and gas resources and its use both in the country and in the region will significantly reduce dependency on wood fuel, which is responsible for massive deforestation in Uganda.

The other priority Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions include climate smart agriculture, restoration of forests, vehicle fuel efficiency and improving transport systems. These are the actions that our development partners should focus on to support Uganda to meet and even exceed her greenhouse emission reduction targets.  

Uganda’s oil and gas resources will provide more Ugandans access to cleaner energy, eliminate emissions associated with import of petroleum products, provide alternative sources of livelihoods and lessen dependency on environmentally degrading economic activities and generate the revenue required to invest in climate smart and clean development mechanisms.

Therefore, in Uganda, the oil and gas industry is part of the solution to achieving greenhouse reduction targets, not the problem.  It is therefore important that Ugandans do not allow themselves to be used to demonise the country’s oil and gas projects while other countries continue to use their oil and gas resources to prosper.

By Joseph Kobusheshe