Beyond enormous environmental benefits such as mitigating climate change, the idea of developing ‘green cities’ in Rwanda can bring about sustainable economic growth and job creation, Tim Hall, a green city development consultant, has said.
Hall, an architect from Light Earth Designs, was yesterday presenting Rwanda’s current urbanisation and Green Cities Development Plans, at the ongoing Global Green Growth Week 2016, at JeJu Island, South Korea.
The Rwanda Country Focus Session, which was attended by a number of international green growth activists and a local delegation led by Rwanda’s ambassador to South Korea Emma Francoise Isumbingabo, also highlighted the country’s effort in investing in green city development.
“Green cities development in Rwanda can be a generator for sustainable economic growth and job creation,” Hall said.
He added that the country needs to find “the best quality” of locally produced materials with low carbon costs for the green city development projects—and this can be done through encouraging the private sector to invest more in production of such materials.
He cited Rubengera Technical Secondary School in Karongi District as one area where they produce really good quality timber and green building material.
“The Rubengera concept can be shared across all districts; this will not only increase the production of sustainable building materials but it will also generate jobs for the local communities,” Hall said.
Hall said most of the solutions to low carbon development and construction are “common sense, including simple efficiency” and they can be locally produced.
“We need to find the best quality local materials with low carbon costs for our green city development. Rwanda’s new green neighbourhoods need to be about people – where people can walk and move easily and kids can play,” Hall said.
Like many other fast-growing economies, Rwanda faces a number of challenges especially in urbanisation—requiring the government to think fast on opportunities that must be taken if the country is to further sustainable development.
According to Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)’s country representative Innocent Kabenga, Rwanda’s urban population is growing at 4.5 per cent per annum, more than double the global average.
“This alone is enough to put sustainable urban development at the top of the government’s agenda. When you factor in climate change and the desire for rapid socio-economic transformation, building green cities is no longer a nice add-on, but an essential part of improving the lives of our citizens and ensuring that our development is sustained for generations to come,” Amb. Isumbingabo said.
To achieve green urban development, Rwanda is embarking on an ambitious task of developing six green secondary cities; however, to get it right, the Government opted to implement a green city pilot that will in the long run inform urbanisation across the country.
Amb. Isumbingabo, however, said green city development is not simply about constructing six-star energy rated buildings or installing solar power and rainwater tanks.
“Rather, it’s about prioritising the needs of our people as well as the planet. This means building green cities with citizens at the centre of their development,” she said.
Isumbingabo pointed to the incorporation of environmental issues in the country’s Vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, saying it underscores government’s understanding of the importance of environment in development.
She said the introduction of a wide reaching national Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy has set Rwanda on a path to a developed, resilient and low carbon economy by 2050.
This policy framework aims to mainstream green growth and climate resilience into every development agenda– not only building cities.
“The goal is to realise our national climate action plan as well as the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.
The institutional framework in Rwanda to achieve this includes Rwanda’s Green Fund (FONERWA), a climate change and environment fund that invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change.
The Fund is a critical funding mechanism to access international climate financing for sustainable urbanisation.
GGGI supported Rwanda to complete a Secondary City Baseline Report, the Green City Framework and Guidelines for Secondary City Development and the Roadmap for Green Secondary City Development released Tuesday.
Alex Mulisa, the coordinator of FONERWA, acknowledges that Green Growth is “a complex and challenging issue” not only for Africa but globally.
Isumbingabo described the GGGI Week as an “excellent platform” to generate momentum for the kinds of partnerships that will help Rwanda and Africa drive forward an ambitious sustainable urban development agenda.
“Rwanda looks forward to building new partnerships here in Jeju and welcomes investment in our green city pilot project,” she said.