Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Sierra Leone
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Sierra Leone. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Sierra Leone
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Sierra Leone. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Loading reading time...
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Sierra Leone
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Sierra Leone. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Sierra Leone produce?

Sierra Leone produced 0.01% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 5.95m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented an increase from 2019 by 1.4%.

In the period from 1990 to 2020 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.2% and Sierra Leone has contributed 0.01% of global greenhouse emissions.

CountrySierra Leone
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$4.2bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 20205.95m
Change in Emissions since 20191.4%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2020)0.01%
Rank – Emitters in 2020150
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990133m
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19902.2%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2020)0.01%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$516
Emissions Per Capita0.7

In 2020, Sierra Leone was the world’s 150th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan.

Emissions per capita in Sierra Leone – average household carbon footprint

The population of Sierra Leone is 8.14m. On a per capita basis, they produce 0.7 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 185th out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Turkmenistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Sierra Leone?


17.6% of emissions in Sierra Leone came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 60.3% came from Methane (CH4), and 19% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2020 was the land-use change and forestry industry, producing 3.36m of GHG emissions, constituting 56.4% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and waste, producing 54.4% and 24.9% of total GHG in Sierra Leone.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 672k of GHG emissions, constituting 11.3% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were other fuel combustion and manufacturing/construction, emitting 306k and 55.8k tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of Sierra Leone, LUCF had a negative impact on Sierra Leone’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 3.36m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Sierra Leone in 2020 was 9.31m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is Sierra Leone to the impact of climate change?

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index

The ND-GAIN Index measures countries’ vulnerability to global challenges, including climate change, and their readiness to improve resilience.

Sierra Leone scores 37 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘high vulnerability and low readiness’ category of climate change preparedness.

The index aims to assist businesses, governments, and communities in prioritising investments for a more efficient response to global shifts.

It is measured by combining two main components:

  1. Vulnerability: This evaluates a country’s vulnerability to environmental risks and its ability to adapt. It considers health, food and water availability, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. A higher score indicates greater vulnerability to environmental challenges.
  2. Readiness: This measures how well a country can leverage investments to mitigate climate change. It considers economic stability, governance, technology, and infrastructure. A higher score means a country is better prepared to implement resilience strategies.

This ranking helps identify areas where resources and adaptation strategies can be most effectively directed to mitigate risks and enhance resilience.

By combining these dimensions, the index provides a comprehensive approach to measuring countries’ ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

High vulnerability and low readiness in Sierra Leone

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, Sierra Leone ranks in the bottom 25% group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with Sierra Leone posting a score of 0.301.

They show the greatest strength in governance aspects, while their performance in economic aspects requires improvement.

  • Governance readiness refers to the political, legal, and regulatory aspects influencing a country’s adaptation to climate change, including stability, corruption control, and law enforcement.
  • Economic readiness refers to the business environment and its capacity to adapt to climate change, emphasizing the importance of a supportive regulatory framework for adaptation initiatives.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Sierra Leone falls into the bottom 10% category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, Sierra Leone has a score of 0.561.

Their resilience is most notable in infrastructure areas, yet they face significant challenges in health.

  • Infrastructure vulnerability refers to the weaknesses in the coastal protection, transportation, and energy systems, which are critical for building resilience against climate change. Coastal protection safeguards land and ports from rising sea levels and storms. Reliable transportation infrastructure is essential for corporate value chains and can be disrupted by extreme weather. Energy infrastructure resilience ensures a continuous supply of energy during natural disasters, maintaining economic stability.
  • Health vulnerability refers to the impact of climate change on diseases and medical resources. Innovations can enhance resilience to vulnerabilities affecting human health through food, water insecurity, and extreme weather events.

The formula to calculate the ND-GAIN Index is

GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50

In this formula:

  • The Readiness Indicators are measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where a higher score means that the readiness is better.
  • The Vulnerability Indicators are also measured on a scale of 0 to 1, but a lower score indicates better vulnerability in this case. 
  • The difference between the Readiness and Vulnerability scores is calculated and then incremented by 1. 
  • Finally, the result is multiplied by 50 to convert the GAIN Index score to a range of 0-100, where a higher score means the situation is better.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth in Sierra Leone?

In 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Sierra Leone declined by -0.33% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $4.08bn to $4.06bn. During the same period, carbon emissions increased by 1.4%. Over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020, GDP grew 57.6%, while emissions increased by 31.2%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in Sierra Leone over the past ten years was 4.7%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 2.8%.


World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at:

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at:

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at:

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at:

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at:

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at:

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