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Uganda, one of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in East Africa, is a landlocked country which covers a total area of 241,038 square kilometers, with water bodies and wetlands covering about a third of it, and standing astride the equator [1].  The capital and largest city in Uganda is Kampala with 1.35 million inhabitants as of 2016 [2].The country lies across the Equator and, due to its equatorial climate, with two rainy seasons, from March to June, and from August to November, it experiences moderate temperatures and humid conditions throughout the year. Most areas in Uganda experience wet and dry seasons except in semi-arid areas.

About 80% of Uganda’s population depends on rain-fed agriculture for livelihood, hence the influences of climate change on agriculture significantly affect the livelihood of most Ugandans. With a real GDP per capita of 957 USD (2019), Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Important National Context

The population of Uganda in 2021 was estimated at 47.85 million with projections to surpass 100 million people by 2050. With growth rate at 3.32%, Uganda’s population is likely to increase the pressure on the limited natural resources. Uganda’s rapid population growth is a cause of concern also related to rapid urbanization, poor waste management, high poverty, unemployment and inadequate infrastructures [3]. Most of the country’s population is youth, with 57% of it being under age 18 and 48.7% under age 15 [4].

Uganda is currently experiencing rapid urbanization: by 2050 it would be among the most urbanized countries in Africa [5]. This rapid urbanization continues to exacerbate pressures on existing infrastructures and land. In 2017, 9.9 million people, or around 24 %, lived in urban areas of Uganda with projections to increase to 19.9 million by 2030 and 31.5 million by 2040 [6]. Uganda’s 2040 Vision, and its commitments under Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development as well as the African Agenda 2063 advocate for well-planned and better-managed urbanization. However, significant challenges continue to abound in Uganda’s urban planning systems. Most of them are riddled with weak policies and enforcement measures.  As a result, the country’s urban areas are grappling with pollution, land degradation, and deteriorating human wellbeing [7].

In 2020, Uganda’s real GDP grew at 2.9%, which was less than half of the 6.8% recorded in 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic activity stalled during the latter part of 2020 due to a domestic lockdown for over four months, border closures, and the spillover effects of disruptions to global demand and supply chains. This resulted in a sharp contraction in public investment and deceleration in private consumption, hitting the industrial and service sectors hard, particularly impacting on the informal service sector [8].  

Climate-induced disasters are increasingly being recorded in Uganda, with the accompanying impacts being losses of lives and livelihoods. Floods and landslides are common during the country’s rainy season, which has increased the loss of lives and damage to infrastructure. Uganda is currently hosting close to 1.5 million refugees from across Africa, and other parts of the world. Conflicts tied to mismanagement of natural resources in the refugee’s places of origin is one of the key push factors of environmental degradation. Estimates show the country needs approximately USD 2 billion to finance the various multiyear integrated sector response plans, including in areas of health, education, jobs and livelihood and water and environment amidst dwindling global resources to support refugees.  Whereas Uganda’s policy towards refugees has been applauded globally, the country’s resources could be overwhelmed by the high and increasing number of refugees [6].

Environmental Governance

Article 39 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda provides that every Ugandan has a right to a clean and healthy environment.  The country has participated regionally in the development of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Policy while nationally, many statutes have been enacted, reviewed and revised such as National Environment Management Policy (NEMP), National Environment Act (NEA), National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), Third National Development Plan (NDP 3) among others [6].

 At the same time, to embrace climate governance on the international level, Uganda has signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Paris Agreement communicating its first Intended National Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2015 and the Interim NDC in 2021.

Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) coordinates the implementation of government policies, proposing environmental policies and strategies, promoting awareness through formal, informal, and non-formal education on environmental issues. Furthermore, the National Planning Authority (NPA), established by the National Planning Act No 15 of 2002,  has the role to develop comprehensive and integrated development plans.

Uganda’s economy is based on natural resources with over 60% of the population deriving their livelihood from natural resource management. Additionally, Uganda’s productivity and sustainability are highly dependent on the management of the environment, which has been recognized in the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII) to achieve the Vision 2040. The COVID-19 pandemic has signaled the need for increased measures for the protection of the environment, the conservation of biodiversity and the mitigation of the effects of climate change critical to Uganda’s path to inclusive, sustainable development.

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Through its development cooperation, the EU stands by Uganda to help address its key challenges, such as: consolidating democracy; removing gender, regional and other inequalities; extending the protection of basic human, social and economic rights to all Ugandans; and removing barriers to sustainable economic growth [9].

EU Member States and financial institutions including the EIB and KfW have adopted two Team Europe Initiatives to support Uganda on Sustainable Business, specifically with the objectives of (i) Improving the investment climate and (ii) creating incentives towards a private sectored greener (inclusive and respectful of natural resources and environment) that spurs decent job creation [10], and on Demography and Social Inclusion, with transformational potential in (i) repositioning social investment in the national agenda and (ii) the development of a strengthened and inclusive human development policy-, investment-, dialogue- and accountability framework [11].

Based on EU fundamental values and founded on mutual interests with Uganda, the draft Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) (2021-2027) identifies three priority areas for EU's cooperation with Uganda: (i) Green and Climate Transition, (ii) Sustainable Growth and Jobs, and (iii) Democratic Governance and Social Inclusion. The EU will also address crosscutting themes such as human rights, gender equality, the digital agenda as well as support to civil society. An integrated approach to refugee and host communities in the framework of the CRRF and a specific focus on youth will be at the core of the EU’s agenda [12].

Moreover, Uganda’s interest and transition to green growth development have been achieved and supported by the European Union Delegation during the recent years. The EU’s main drivers for a greener and more circular economy in Uganda are are; need for job creation, improved quality of urban life by sustainable urbanization, business opportunities from valuing waste and natural capital and investment opportunities in low carbon development and opportunities.  In 2017, Uganda launched its Green Growth Development Strategy and became a member of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Most recently, the European Green Deal roadmap and the EU Taxonomy programs have been developed in the Inclusive Green Economy framework [13].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate change

Uganda is highly vulnerable to climate change - its economy and the wellbeing of its people are tightly bound to climate and natural resources [14]. The country has been experiencing increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as more erratic rainfalls leading to frequent busting of rivers, mudslides and landslides that lead to loss of lives and property of communities especially those living in the mountainous areas. At the same time those in low lands experience floods [15]. Poverty, land degradation, rapid and unplanned urbanization since the 1960s, and weak enforcement of building codes and zoning regulations, as well as a lack of coordinated disaster response strategies present additional challenges to the country’s adaption and resilience efforts [6].

The rural poor and those living in informal settlements are especially vulnerable as they have lower capacity to cope with and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Women are particularly vulnerable in terms of food insecurity, water shortage and fuel wood scarcity; the children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or sick are also considered particularly vulnerable [1].

Uganda Climate change damage estimates in the agriculture, water, infrastructure sectors collectively amount to 2-4% of GDP between 2010 and 2050, and the costs of inaction are estimated at between US$273 - 437 billion [16]. For examples, in the 2007-2008 fiscal year, climate change damages were equivalent to 4.4% of the national budget, exceeding the budget allocation for the Environment and Natural Resource Sector [1].


Land management, land use and land cover change (LULCC)

Uganda identifies land degradation as a key drawback in the attainment of its national development plans and priorities. Government estimates show at least 50% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributed to the natural resource sector. For instance, multiple sectors are affected by declining forest cover. In 2020, the Ugandan Government reported that its forests had declined from 24% (or 4.9 million ha) in 1990 to 9% (1.83 million ha) by 2018. This translates to losses of 3 million ha in just 25 years.

Among the key drivers of these issues is the huge dependence on biomass for energy. Findings from government-led National Household Surveys for 2016/17 shows that 94% of households rely on firewood and charcoal as their main fuel for cooking. Other drivers of degradation include the growing demand for agricultural land, population pressure, urbanization, and industrialization. In addition, current penalties and enforcement machinery are ill-equipped to address growing deforestation [17] [18].


[1]Ministry Of Water And Environment, Republic Of Uganda (2015). Uganda’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

[2]World Population Review (2021). Population of Cities in Uganda (2021).

[3] World Population Review (2021). Uganda Population 2021 (Live).

[4] The Republic of Uganda (2020). Voluntary national review report on the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

[5] Anadolu Agency (2021). Godfrey Olukya. Uganda faces rising tide of urbanization

[6] Republic of Uganda, Uganda Vision 2040 (2020). THIRD NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (NDPIII) 2020/21 – 2024/25.

[7]Republic of Uganda. Uganda Vision 2040.

[8] The World Bank (2021).  The World Bank in Uganda – Overview.

[9] European Commission Website. International Partnership – Uganda.

[10] Capacity4dev, EU. Uganda - Sustainable Business

[11] Capacity4dev, EU. Uganda - Demography and Social Inclusion

[12]DG INTPA, European Commission (2021). Republic of Uganda MULTI-ANNUAL INDICATIVE PROGRAMME 2021-2027.

[13]Switch2green, European Commission (2021).  Uganda goes green and circular Milestones in the transition.

[14]Reliefweb (2008).  Climate change in Uganda: Understanding the implications and appraising the response.

[15]Climate Change Knowledge Portal, The World Bank (2021). Country – Uganda. Vulnerability.

[16] Reliefweb (2016).  Economic Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change in Uganda - Final Study Report, November 2015.

[17] The Republic of Uganda, LDN, The Global Mechanism (2018). The LDN Target Setting Programme Uganda Country Report.  

[18]ESA. (2021). Worldwide land cover mapping.