Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Zambia

Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Zambia. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Zambia
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Zambia. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Zambia
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Zambia. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Zambia produce?

Zambia produced 0.08% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 36.2m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented an increase from 2020 by 1.2%.

In the period from 1990 to 2021 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2% and Zambia has contributed 0.08% of global greenhouse emissions.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$21.2bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 202136.2m
Change in Emissions since 20201.2%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2021)0.08%
Rank – Emitters in 202196
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990917m
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19901.2%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2021)0.08%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$1.12k
Emissions Per Capita1.9

In 2021, Zambia was the world’s 96th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Brazil.

When looking at emissions over time Zambia is the 93rd largest emitter since 1990.

Emissions per capita in Zambia – average household carbon footprint

The population of Zambia is 18.9m. On a per capita basis, they produce 1.9 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 152nd out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Zambia?


19.8% of emissions in Zambia came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 43.9% came from Methane (CH4), and 34.3% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2021 was the land-use change and forestry industry, producing 52.3m of GHG emissions, constituting 145% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and energy, producing 61.6% and 22.6% of total GHG in Zambia.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 2.58m of GHG emissions, constituting 7.1% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were building and manufacturing/construction, emitting 1.92m and 1.83m 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 Zambia, LUCF had a negative impact on Zambia’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 52.3m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Zambia in 2021 was 88.5m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is Zambia 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.

Zambia scores 42.2 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 Zambia

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, Zambia ranks in the above average group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with Zambia posting a score of 0.324.

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

  • 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.
  • Social readiness refers to the societal factors like inequality, education, and technology infrastructure that affect a country’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Zambia falls into the above average category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, Zambia has a score of 0.48.

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

  • Water vulnerability refers to the availability and reliability of water resources, critical for economies and livelihoods. Efficient water use and resilient systems are essential as climate change affects precipitation patterns.
  • 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 Zambia?

In 2021, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Zambia grew by 22% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $18.1bn to $22.1bn. During the same period, carbon emissions increased by 1.2%. Over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2021, GDP declined -5.8%, while emissions increased by 25.9%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in Zambia over the past ten years was -0.6%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 2.3%.


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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