Rwanda is committed to building green secondary cities that are not just about bricks and mortar, but which are human-friendly, Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources has said.
Biruta was this week delivering his remarks during a meeting dubbed ‘Policy Dialogue on Financing Cities: Implementing the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 11’, in New York, US.
The event was organised by the UN-Habitat.
It attracted several environmentalists, public and private sector officials, with a focus on how the globe can best finance the growth of cities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and work towards the New Urban Agenda.
With more people moving to cities than ever before, Biruta said, developing a global vision for the sustainable development of the cities is essential.
“Building green and climate resilient cities is about more than bricks and mortar. It is about creating spaces where our citizens can achieve their hopes and aspirations free from pollution and the fear of extreme weather events. It is also about providing economic opportunities through employment to address poverty by making our cities inclusive,” Biruta said.
He reminded participants that Rwanda has relatively a small country thus the need to use the land effectively.
Land use plans have been introduced for every district in the country and each parcel has been mapped, putting in place a strong foundation for urban development, he said.
“We know that unless our future cities are well planned, and are green and climate resilient, they won’t have a future. Today, we have the chance to build cities that not only respect our natural environment, but also actively help to protect and restore it,” Biruta added.
Joan Clos, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN-Habitat, recently said the world “must move away” from urban development that is power-hungry and creates ecological risks, towards a new urban model that is productive, safe and reduces GHG emissions.
“The prerequisites for low-carbon and resilient cities include sound urban planning, legal frameworks that enable action, and a model of urban finance that can provide for the supply of climate-friendly infrastructures, while promoting a compact and diverse urban structure in which economic prosperity is encouraged. When these three pillars are put in place, the urban model will generate more solutions than problems,” Clos said.
Under the national development agenda, the government has resorted to encouraging urbanisation to easily enable citizens to have access to infrastructures, services, socio-economic opportunities, ideas and productivity that cities bring.
Cities account for more than 70 per cent of human greenhouse gas emissions. And with Rwanda now turning the focus on building climate resilient green cities, Biruta says, the aim is to keep the carbon footprint low.
Biruta cited a number of initiatives to develop low carbon neighborhoods and building materials.
They include green housing studies that have been developed in partnership with a local construction company. Such efforts act as an open-source tool to inform the development of six secondary cities across the country.
Another initiative is the development of low cost, low carbon construction materials using agricultural waste.
“Rwanda’s own Green Fund – a climate change and environment investment fund - is a critical funding mechanism that is supporting these initiatives. It also enables access to international climate finance,” Biruta noted.
He emphasised that, it is the commitment of Rwanda to demonstrate impactful climate finance that allowed the Ministry of Natural Resources to be accredited for direct access to the international Green Climate Fund—representing yet another opportunity to access finance for green urbanisation.
Rwanda’s urbanisation projection
In Rwanda, the urban population is growing at 5.9 per cent per year - more than twice the global average.
This has generated the momentum and commitment to build inclusive, safe and climate resilient cities, Biruta said.
The country’s urban population currently stands at 28 per cent and the goal is to reach 35 per cent urbanisation by 2020.
To support the implementation of this ambitious objective, Rwanda partnered with UN-Habitat and the Global Green Growth Institute to develop a National Urbanisation Policy.
This policy, Biruta says, lays the groundwork for how urbanisation in Rwanda can achieve economic, environmental and social outcomes through the pillars of coordination, densification, conviviality, and economic growth.
In 2011, Rwanda adopted a Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy that has set the country on the path to be a developed, resilient and low carbon economy by 2050.
One of the 14 programmes of action contained in the strategy is Low Carbon Urban Systems.
The minister says that this priority area outlines the need for cities with energy and water efficiency building standards, integrated multi-mode transport systems, low carbon urban planning, and turning urban waste into a valuable resource.