A good opportunity to make our economy climate-friendly

On October 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report calling for “rapid changes to energy systems, to the way we manage land, and to the way we move around with transportation” in order to avoid a climate catastrophe post-2030.

The report recommends rapid and significant changes in four big global systems: energy, land use, cities, and industry to mitigate this catastrophe.

The revolutionary change outlined called on governments to increase their ambitions, act immediately, and move to clean energy and sustainable lifestyles.

The IPCC report concludes that a failure to act urgently “will lead to more heat-related deaths, smaller crop yields, worse extreme weather events, slower economic growth, more people in poverty, and an increase in the population facing water stress by 50%.”

While the report sounds alarming, it also reveals the immense opportunity we have to harness our human, financial, and natural resources to ensure long-lasting, inclusive, and sustainable socio-economic development.

The Government has invested wisely in Rwanda’s physical and social infrastructure and built human and institutional capacity to ensure that viable business opportunities are seized and all stakeholders reap positive rewards.

“In an era of accelerating change, the imperative to limit climate change and achieve sustainable growth is strengthening the momentum of the global energy transformation. Solar power worldwide will grow from 86 gigawatts to 110 gigawatts in 2022.

“The amount of solar power capacity to be added in the coming years is equivalent to 70,000 new solar panels every hour.” To install 70,000 solar panels every hour around the world over the next five years will require a production rate of more than 70,000 solar panels per hour.

That is very good music to the ears of solar panel manufacturers, not to mention the youth who will secure jobs in those solar-powered factories. These production-line jobs in state-of-the-art factories in Rwanda will require intelligent youth, an abundant resource.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that electric vehicles will grow from approximately 4 million to 125 million in 2030. That is an immense opportunity for companies, like Volkswagen, which invest in electric vehicles.

“The IEA also sees a pathway to 220 million electric vehicles by 2030, provided the world takes a more aggressive approach to fighting climate change and cutting emissions than currently planned.”

Given the urgency to limit global warming, there will be hundreds of millions of electric vehicles produced in solar-powered factories.

We are well-placed to seize these opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development.

As far as next-generation technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency are concerned, there are visionaries like Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

It is an investor-led fund with over $1 billion in committed capital to build “cutting edge companies” to help stop climate change.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures could, in partnership with our government and local investors, help innovative companies located in Rwanda to develop and bring new clean energy technologies to market.

This would facilitate the prevalence of clean and sustainable energy in agriculture, buildings, electricity, manufacturing, and transport.

To ensure inclusive, sustainable economic growth and rural development, there is a need to increase organic matter in the soil. This would increase the soil’s water-holding capacity and make farms more climate resilient to floods and droughts.

The IPCC states that 89% of all agricultural emissions can be mitigated by improving soil carbon levels. An increase of 20% organic matter in soil per year would result in nearly 10 tonnes more soil carbon per hectare being stored by 2035.

“Healthy soil is covered by plants. Plant roots hold soils together, reducing erosion and allowing air to penetrate in spaces between roots. Roots also encourage healthier soil communities through plant-fungal interactions. The benefits spread beyond the farm and huge gains can be seen in biodiversity, carbon storage, flood and drought control, and water quality.”

Rwanda’s Green Fund could facilitate the planting of protective cover crops during the months between the planting seasons and ensure continual green cover nationwide.

The increased nutrients cultivated in our soils would enhance the flavor of our crops and secure a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between farmers and their markets.

The writer is a social commentator based in Kigali

The views expressed in this article are of the author.