Green decisions incumbent upon individuals and firms

The Green Growth Week that concluded yesterday in Kigali highlighted not only Rwanda’s progress in embracing the concept, but the juxtaposing role green growth can sustainably play between enterprise and development.

The Green Growth Week that concluded yesterday in Kigali highlighted not only Rwanda’s progress in embracing the concept, but the juxtaposing role green growth can sustainably play between enterprise and development.

The concept has its origins in the Asia and Pacific Region at the 2005 Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development (MCED) in Seoul, South Korea, where governments agreed to move beyond the sustainable development rhetoric and pursue a path of “green growth”.

It has since spawned the global endeavour to deal with the double challenge of a growing population and the requisite need to expand economic opportunities while addressing environmental and climatic pressures threatening to undermine the ability to seize available development opportunities.

Thus, the Green Growth Week showcased one among the foremost implementation strategies in the region and Africa, that have served as case studies on sustainable management of the continent’s resources that include minimising waste and pollution, and building a resilient environment, economy and society to withstand future environmental risks.

Indeed, the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) aptly demonstrates the possibilities. Started five years ago and has so far mobilised approximately Rwf80 billion (US$100 million), FONERWA has thus far funded 35 green projects worth Rwf39 billion, with 1,000 pending proposals.

The running projects have already yielded about 123,000 green jobs, built green villages and restored more than 15,000 hectares in watershed areas.

This includes the e-waste facility that has been running for the past six months, facilitating tree planting on more than 32,000 hectares across the country, in addition to more than 95,000 people now receiving support to cope with effects of climate change.

More than 17,000 households now have improved access to off-grid energy.

Though they make for an impressive step, the numbers may seem modest by some standards. But it is also recognised that there is no “one-size-fits-all” prescription for fostering greener growth.

The African Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) point out that greening the growth path of an economy depends on policy and institutional settings, level of development, social structures, resource endowments and particular environmental pressure points.

On this note, therefore, the fourth edition of the annual Made-in-Rwanda Expo may have coincided with the Green Growth Week, but there is no gainsaying that the enabling policies should encourage more sustainable consumption, investment and green compliant decisions by individuals and investing firms.

On the other hand, broadly speaking, OECD’s Green Growth Indicators 2017 notes how progress has often been insufficient to preserve the natural asset base or relieve pressure on ecosystems and on natural environmental services such as water purification and climate regulation.

It, therefore, urges greater efforts across the board if we are to safeguard natural assets, reduce our collective environmental footprint and sever the link between growth and environmental pressures such as may emanate from our continued fossil fuel use and the various pollutant emissions.

This, inevitably, ties into the Third United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) conference in Nairobi also held this week under the theme, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.

A policy statement released ahead of the meeting links the recent catastrophic events — the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States, droughts in the Horn and Eastern Africa, Yemen, as well as flooding in Bangladesh, India and Europe — to countries’ decisions on their ecosystems, energy, natural resources, urban expansion, infrastructure, production, consumption and waste management.

The risks are therefore immediate, making the climatic events more than blight the continuing efforts at green growth and the development gains so far attained.

And yet the situation is more serious. It has only taken a single degree Celsius of global warming so far to witness the rise of deadly droughts, heatwaves and superstorms riding on the rising seas.

On Wednesday this week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides the scientific foundation for global climate policy, presented an upward revision of the previous forecast for global warming by about 15 per cent.

It now projects an increase in the earth’s average surface temperature of about 4.5 Celsius by 2100 if carbon pollution continues unabated.

As the experts noted, the prediction makes the already daunting challenge of capping global warming at “well under” 2.0 degrees Celsius — the cornerstone goal of the 196-nation Paris Agreement — all the more difficult.

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.