Public awareness key to achieving green growth, experts say

Rwanda's path to achieving a green economy will not come easy – especially with biased public perception – but awareness is key to understanding that going green is the only way to achieve sustainable development, environmentalists have said.
Kabenga during the interview. Governments must heighten public awareness if economies are to effectively push for green growth. (Courtesy.)
Kabenga during the interview. Governments must heighten public awareness if economies are to effectively push for green growth. (Courtesy.)

Rwanda’s path to achieving a green economy will not come easy – especially with biased public perception – but awareness is key to understanding that going green is the only way to achieve sustainable development, environmentalists have said.

Okey Daniel Ogbonnaya, lead coordinator and programme manager at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), said delivering growth that is pro-poor, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable will face a lot of hitches along the way, such as cultural beliefs, and a mindset that is resistant to change, but that with clear public understanding, the move will go a long way in reaching the intended purpose with limited difficulty.

“Green growth sustainability, in general, has its trade-offs due to the fact that it is developed over the years along with traditional way of doing things—where resource efficiency wasn’t the key but rather exploiting the recourses and then people can realise economic growth. But the traditional way is no longer appealing because it has huge environmental negative impacts than sustainable development,” said Ogbonnaya.

“If this is not planned well, such as convincing people in villages who have been sustaining their livelihood through charcoal business, to bee-farming or relocating them to secondary cities, is likely to create unemployment and needs careful planning. Awareness and proper planning are very important because such changes would obstruct the livelihood of people who depend on nature,” he added.

Ogbonnaya was last week speaking together with Innocent Kabenga, GGGI-Rwanda country representative, in an interview to highlight key issues faced in the global green growth path as the world forge ways to strengthen partnerships to mitigate climate change.

GGGI will mark Global Green Growth Week 2016 (GGGW2016), from September 5 to 9, on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, to identify practical, innovative solutions to sustainability challenges and strengthen partnerships that deliver growth that is pro-poor, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable.

The summit, which is expected to be attended by some local government officials, will be held under the theme, “Maximising Impact for Inclusive and Sustainable Green Growth.”

GGGW2016 will also highlight four thematic priorities of renewable energy; water, land-use and green cities that are central to achieving strong, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.

Participants will assess green growth policy, research, partnerships, financing, and technology.

The event will engage key officials from government, multi-lateral development banks and international development agencies, private-sector leaders, and representatives from the academia and non-governmental organisations.

Ogbonnaya said, for developing countries, governments, together with development partners, must as well focus on smoothening green growth transition; such as moving people away from their traditional areas, relocating them to secondary cities in order to avoid deforestation such that the government is able to create more green zones.

“Awareness is essential, but to say that going green is going to be rosy is misleading, especially for the countries that are resource-constrained. If we create public awareness, people will get to understand the intention and the objective of the plan,” Ogbonnaya said.

Technology

Kabenga said investing in technology and development of knowledge-based economy will also expedite green growth efforts and fast-track sustainable development while creating jobs.

“For instance, Rwanda has been able to successfully put a ban on plastic bags, the way they have done it is through discouraging it right from producers and wholesalers. That makes most of the waste collected here biodegradable,” Kabenga said.

He said most of the first-world countries are currently “paying a fortune” because they invested heavily in industrialisation back in time, while paying little attention to possible consequences of pollution, which has led to high carbon emissions.

The result of all these is what we are seeing now: climate change, Kabenga added.

Kabenga explained that developed countries have had to “wake-up late” in regard to mitigating climate change, and it will require heavy investment into green growth to reach targets.

“But ‘poor’ countries, such as Rwanda, will benefit from harsh lessons and green growth initiatives because we will be able to invest in green energy and preserve environment. People need to understand now that green growth initiatives are meant for their own good in the future,” he said.

“In Rwanda, as we start to develop our industries, we must do so in a way that the technological infrastructure we will develop is environmentally friendly,” he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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