New GGGI boss pledges ‘speedy action’ on green cities development

The director-general of Global Green Growth institute (GGGI), Dr Frank Rijsberman, is worried about the slow pace of green growth and says will do everything within his powers during his tenure to ensure speedy action
Dr Rijsberman during the interview in Kigali last week. / David Toovey
Dr Rijsberman during the interview in Kigali last week. / David Toovey

The director-general of Global Green Growth institute (GGGI), Dr Frank Rijsberman, is worried about the slow pace of green growth and says will do everything within his powers during his tenure to ensure speedy action.

GGGI is an international organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies.

 

Established in 2012, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, GGGI is accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic growth – green growth – founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

 

In an exclusive interview with The New Times’ Athan Tashobya, Dr Rijsberman spoke about his visit to Rwanda and his plans for GGGI.

 

EXCERPTS:

What do you come with on board, different from your predecessor, especially for the developing countries like Rwanda that to transition into environmentally-sustainable and socially-inclusive models of economic growth?

My predecessor did a great job for GGGI and moved the organisation to the right value chain – closer to the implementation – and put a lot of emphasis on financing. Both of these are critical priorities.

And, here in Rwanda, we don’t only talk about green cities, we don’t just make plans, we want to see action in a pilot city to show the world the right demonstrations. And, of course, we want to work on the financing area with FONERWA (the Environment and Climate Change Fund).

But I am worried about the pace. Can we quickly demonstrate that green growth is really working in terms of not just growing in one pilot city? How are we going to spread it and get all the cities going green? I am worried about the speed and the scale; we need do this faster because we are moving against time: climate change.

I am looking forward to ways and means in GGGI to really look for impacts that link to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like creating jobs and others. That’s my top priority for now.

Rwanda and Ethiopia are the countries where we have the largest programmes and both have governments that are clearly convinced that green growth is critical. I think Rwanda and Ethiopia are real opportunities to demonstrate that green growth works then we have to find ways to scale it up. That is our challenge and that’s FONERWA’s challenge as well. 

Rwanda is the first country you are visiting as the GGGI director-general. Why this visit at this particular time?

Partly, I am here for the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol [the meeting closed last week in Kigali]. But, of course, this is a good opportunity to meet people who are here and be able to visit places where green growth activities are taking place.

Rwanda and Ethiopia are our top priorities and I am interested in seeing some of these countries at work. My job entails mobilising resources from around the world, but I want to balance that with really understanding the priorities of the countries we are supporting and the challenges they are facing.

What kind of collaboration do you have with FONERWA specifically?

It is not that we are putting a lot of money in FONERWA; hopefully the money we put there helps FONERWA to come up with plans to grow. We are not a funding agency; we only have investment specialists—we have hired top investment bankers to help countries like Rwanda on how to get to green growth. So, we come up with technical and operational assistances to the Fund’s Secretariat to attract large amounts of money for climate change and environment projects, and that’s what we are working on with Fonerwa.

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Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the Director General of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), in an interview with The New Times. / David Toovey

A key outcome of the project is to mobilise green growth and climate financing aligned to Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy and the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) objectives through FONERWA.

What is your next step for action regarding developing green cities in Rwanda?

I have been briefed about the 300 pilot green homes and I have been asking what would be the difference between these green neighbourhoods from the normal homes. I think this is the right opportunity for us and the government to work with the private sector to adopt the style of these homes and extend it to other areas. We need to show them the framework the government has set up and show them that it can be done.

We want to get the pilot projects from the green homes and implement them in the secondary cities projects. I am aware that within three months, our team will be finalising on the details of plan and designs of secondary cities.

Of course, we are working on the same green cities programmes in other countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia, among others. Our objective is not to have the best practice in one country but to have as many best practices as possible around the world to allow countries share knowledge and mechanisms.

Right now we have a strong green expertise team at our offices to help countries in green cities, efficient energy and water sector. The idea is, when a country like Rwanda needs a specialised team in a certain sector, we are able to send them down here to help in planning and implementing that.

What do you consider as the major obstacles to green growth?

Funding is one of the major obstacles. We need about $90 trillion in sustainable infrastructure, that’s a lot of money. That means that it is not just like any other programme. Mainstreaming green growth is key as well but it is important in greening our growth—it requires huge investments and it has to be part of the top priorities for the governments as well. Doing so would mean streamlining it in schools, jobs and other sectors.

What is your take on the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol in relation to the GGGI’s mandate?

Climate change is a key driver of what we do and HFCs cause global warming and are a key green house gas. Phasing out the HFCs is key to achieving goals set under the Paris Agreement and stabilising the climate patterns.

If you build green cities, which do not consume a lot of energy because they are well ventilated, you don’t need air conditioning. That’s an easy way to phase out these dangerous gasses. We can instead use other coolants that are less harmful to the environment.

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