Today, the second high-level policy dialogue on Rwanda’s green growth and climate resilience strategy is being held to review the further progress the country has made toward sustainable green growth and climate resilience and assess the challenges facing it on this path as well as to chart the way forward.
The first of the series was held on July 19, 2015, at which a broad range of stakeholders evaluated the progress the country had made since it adopted the “Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy” (GGCRS) in 2011.
This second policy dialogue, like the previous one, is also jointly convened by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the One UN Rwanda Team.
The key resolutions of the first policy dialogue highlighted the need for continued technical support for, and close monitoring of, the implementation of the 14 programmes of action of Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy, adequate resource mobilisation in support of them and mainstreaming of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), their targets and indicators within the strategy.
The dialogue also resolved to convene every semester. We are pleased once again to convene this dialogue to take stock of what has been achieved and the remaining challenges and constraints to effective and faster delivery.
Before proceeding, it is worth recalling that responding to global demands over the past years for a paradigm shift to more sustainable patterns of development that will ensure that the economic progress that countries would continue to make in the coming years will no longer compromise unduly environmental sustainability and would adhere to the principles of equity, the 2012 Rio+20 Summit’s outcome document, “The Future We Want”, recognised “green economy” as an important avenue for sustainable and inclusive development as well as accelerated poverty eradication by promoting improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental deterioration and ecological risks.
Recent publications by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reconfirm the imperative for accelerated transformation to a green economy for achieving the various global agenda, notably the Sustainable Development Goals.
Within the context of these debates, active discussions are ongoing on “inclusive green economy”, which highlights elements of a socio-ecological and economy-wide transformation firmly underpinned by principles of sustainability and energy saving technologies and processes.
They, thus, call for radical changes in production and consumption patterns, strong institutional and capacity building, wide spread introduction of energy saving technologies and accompanying economic, fiscal policy reforms and legislative changes that are specifically geared towards safeguarding the above principles of sustainability, environmental protection and social equity.
Back to basics
But it is essential to cut through the above jargons and go “back to the basics” in order to better comprehend the essence and imperative for these relatively new and more holistic approaches to promotion of greener development and transformation processes and climate resilience.
The rationale for all this is derived from the increasingly apparent adverse effects of climate change on human lives, livelihoods, social capital and physical infrastructure as well as over reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal.
There is by now incontrovertible scientific evidence that the effects of climate change being progressively experienced today in all parts of the world are caused by rising and volatile temperatures from an accumulation of Green House Gases, dominated by carbon-dioxiide, in the atmosphere.
Several scientific studies indicate that this process of releasing Green House Gases intensified with effect from the industrial revolution.
The argument is thus made that the releasing of Green House Gases into the atmosphere has principally been the responsibility of the advanced industrialised countries as well as the newly industrialised ones.
This notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the responsibility for effectively responding to the increasingly devastating effects of climate change lies with all the nations around the world.
This responsibility should be discharged through reduction of carbon footprints, adaptation and mitigation of risks of damage to crops, homes and other property, infrastructure, loss of livestock, wildlife and other biodiversity and above all, to human lives.
This means systematically incorporating climate change considerations into all development and transformation strategies.
It is also crucial that changes in our mindsets, behaviors and cultural practices in consumption patterns and economic activities are urgently effected.
In this regard, we must endeavor to use resources efficiently in consumption and production and ensure that our production processes and other economic and lifestyle activities are low-carbon generating, meaning the release of the minimum possible green house gases into the atmosphere.
In response to this paradigm shift to a more holistic and sustainable approach to development, we have noted that the Government of Rwanda put in place in 2011 the national Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy.
The strategy provides the framework for transforming sectoral economic activities under its 14 programmes of action, which cover both climate change mitigation through low carbon development and climate change adaptation, which paves the way for climate compatible economic development of the nation through synergies among them.
The strategy has been developed with a vision in mind for Rwanda to be a developed climate-resilient and low-carbon economy by 2050.
The 14 programmes of action include diversifying energy sources with low carbon energy grid and promoting green technology and resource efficient industries throughout all production levels from the primary stages such as agricultural production and mining to manufacturing industries in the secondary to tertiary public and private sector industrial activities as well as transport and urban development.
The programmes also aim to promote sustainable land and natural resources use, food security, preservation of biodiversity, social protection, improved health and disaster risk reduction which reduces vulnerability to climate change.
Since this effort at transformation in the nation requires active participation and execution of activities in different key sectors, putting in place robust institutional arrangements and capacity building and knowledge management of the actors are of utmost importance for its success.
Furthermore, to make synergies and realise the desired impacts, integrated planning and data management by each sector as well as mechanisms for translating the strategy into other national mid-term strategies and priority interventions were recognised to be crucial, as reflected in the key strategic elements developed for it in the EDPRS II.
The United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP 2013-2018), which constitutes the single business plan of the One UN Rwanda Team in the context of the delivering as one framework, contains an important support area for the successful implementation of the green economy and climate resilience priority interventions of EDPRS II.
The main instrument for this support is a Joint Programme for Green Economy, which is being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and other concerned institutions.
The joint programme has endeavoured to deliver key activities which contribute to the country’s efforts at effecting important mind set changes that will facilitate transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns, at deepening green economy transformations for instance through green urbanisation, especially the secondary cities, green ICT smart villages, increased investment in green industries, policy reforms and instruments for ensuring more energy efficiency and expansion of renewable energy sources.
The other important supporting measures include knowledge sharing and management through among other things, establishment of centres of excellence on environment, climate change, biodiversity protection and more sustainable management of natural resources.
The high-level policy dialogue being conducted today will no doubt meticulously review the concrete achievements made in recent years by Rwanda towards a green and climate resilient economy and what still remains to be done.
In the meantime, it thus suffices to mention a few. In the first instance, we could note that reasonable progress has been made in sensitising senior central and local government officials as well as the wider population to the imperatives for attaining a greener economy and climate resilience.
Green villages are being constructed and inhabited in many cases by people relocated from the landslide prone areas and a green village toolkit is being utilised in government’s upscaling efforts in respect of more climate resilient and green rural settlements in Rwanda.
Complex studies on the costing of the green growth in the water and forestry sub-sectors have allowed for quantification of the financial needs for transiting from business as usual approaches to more resource efficient, low-carbon and climate resilient management of these natural resources.
It is also notable that the costing of the energy and agriculture sectors have been done and provide a sound basis for transforming the management systems of them in similar manner as the above-cited natural resources sectors.
Since January 2015, we have noted that the government has taken more concrete measures to improve air quality, the health and environment of Rwandans by, among other things, enforcing mandatory and more stringent vehicle emissions testing as mandated by the Prime Minister’s instructions.
This aims at preventing air pollution from vehicular emissions and machines using petroleum products.
Furthermore, a car free zone is being piloted in Kigali which aims to expand the entire central business district as a part of the master plan for the urban planning to decongest the city and to create space for green environment.
We have also noted with satisfaction that the City of Kigali is reforming its conventional structure to a more sustainable way by introducing green homes, using renewable energy sources for water heating, street lightening and utilising low-cost and efficient materials.
The pavements of many streets are also being restricted to allow for safer pedestrian, cyclist and green lanes.
Notable progress is also being made in the renewable energy sector. The 8.5MW solar power plant that has been operational since July 2014 has created 350 local jobs and increased the nation’s generation capacity by 6 per cent.
The government has been steadily putting into effect its intention to step up the utilisation of abundant water resources from the two major drainage basins of Africa for hydropower development, whose capacity of 57.39 megawatts before has now been increased to 232 megawatts, with plans to pull the bar up to 334 megawatts by 2017.
The above are but a few of the concrete achievements realized by Rwanda on its path towards green development and transformation and climate resilience. But, as President Paul Kagame never ceases to remind, much still needs to be done and the challenges are increasing in complexity.
But as we look forward to Rwanda’s signing next week of the historic COP 21 agreement that will hopefully see a more consistent and substantial flow of the much needed funds for Green Growth and Climate Resilience, we could afford to maintain a high level of optimism for sustained success.
We are pleased to note that Rwanda’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC in the run up to the COP 21 negotiations were based on the 14 Programmes of Action of the Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy that are already well harmonised with SDGs.
UN Rwanda is committed to provide all the technical and financial support it could muster in the translation of INDCS into NDCs for optimal readiness to leverage this funding and ensure effective implementation of the country’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy.
The writer is the One UN Rwanda resident coordinator