President Paul Kagame has called for rapid action globally to address climate change and prevent impending negative consequences. The President was speaking on climate change and the importance of ending plastic pollution in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada at the G7 summit which closed yesterday.
The President highlighted that no nation across the world was being spared the impact of climate change with tens of millions of people’s ways of life disrupted.
“The role of oceans in regulating climate change has been severely affected, and the human factor, among others, continues to contribute to this situation. That calls for global action. Among other consequences, we may see tens of millions of people on the move, in search of new homes. No country on Earth is unaffected. And none can act alone,” he said.
Noting the continued delays to take action, he said that there was still time to avert continued damage by making interventions that bear the right scale and urgency.
“We have delayed to take action with the necessary urgency and scale, but we still have the time and ability to mitigate the damage, and stop the worst scenarios. A number of factors should give us the determination to do the right thing,” Kagame said.
Sharing insights of Rwanda’s journey in environmental protection, President Kagame explained that the country banned plastic bags about a decade ago which has had cross cutting benefits.
The process he said presented lessons that inform Rwanda’s journey to further implement more environmental protection initiatives.
Among the key lessons is the power of information to citizens throughout the process to increase adoption of the initiative.
“It took us four years to legislate the plastics ban, following an intensive education campaign on the harm caused to the environment, and to our economy as well. When citizens understand what is at stake and how their behaviour can make a measurable difference, they become the most effective part of the solution. Involving and empowering them laid the groundwork, to begin phasing out other single-use plastic products,” he said.
Kagame also pointed to the importance of bringing in the private sector to reduce resistance to change as well as ensure the process has trickle down effects.
“Involving the private sector in finding practical solutions, not only reduces resistance to change, it also supports the creation of new jobs, and revenue streams. The bonus is a more pristine natural environment, for Rwanda’s citizens, residents, and tourists to enjoy,” he said.
“Such initiatives and approaches replicated on a bigger scale have the capacity to eliminate plastic pollution that is choking oceans, degrading soils and poisoning food supply,” he added.
Kagame who is also the chairperson of the African Union said that the organisation supports the role of blue economy, in the much desired socioeconomic transformation and is backing ongoing efforts.
“The challenge before us all is daunting, and we have to be bold and practical. Old technologies brought us climate change, but new innovations are what will mitigate it, and in time, even reverse the damage. ” he said citing initiatives such as re-freezing the Arctic Ocean, re-greening the oceans, and stabilising the Antarctic ridge before it collapses.
He called on countries to move from talk to action: “Less than three years ago in Paris, 190 nations made a firm commitment to stop the increase in global temperatures. Today, the G7, together with partners gathered here and elsewhere, has the opportunity, and indeed the obligation, to translate this political will into concrete action, before it is too late,” he said.
Kagame was among the select few non-G7 world leaders invited by the host country to ‘the Outreach Session’ of the G7 Summit where more common issues of concern are discussed.
The theme for the Outreach Session this year was around how to build healthy, productive and resilient oceans, coasts, and communities.
G7, also known as the Group of Seven, is made up of seven countries – which are among the largest economies of the world.
The summit brings together leaders and policymakers from the most advanced economies including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to build consensus and set trends around challenging global issues.