For more than a decade, putting the environment at the center of Rwanda’s development has been a priority for the country. In 2010, this policy of fostering a green economy was made official with the introduction of a national Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. Since then, Rwanda has seen a number of major milestones in the effort to mitigate climate change and develop in a way that is sustainable.
For example, the last twelve months saw the historic Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol being ratified by the more than 20 countries worldwide needed for it to enter into force – just one of the highlights from 2017.
Below, we revisit some of the key environment milestones from 2017 and examine their significance for Rwanda.
Signing of Cooperation Agreement with Canada
Rwanda and Canada are thousands of miles apart, but the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer — the world’s most successful international treaty that protects the ozone layer — has led the two countries into a strong partnership for climate action and environmental protection.
In November 2017, Rwanda and Canada signed an agreement to facilitate partnership on climate change, the green economy, sustainable urban wetland management and environmental compliance and enforcement.
As part of the cooperation agreement, Minister for Environment, Vincent Biruta, and Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, committed to share best practices and lessons learned, and partner on capacity building and training on climate change issues.
According to Minister Biruta, the agreement is a way to put into action what the world has agreed through the Paris Agreement and other international conventions on climate change.
Minister McKenna said that the deal would help the two countries work together for the protection of the environment, adding that “climate change is a global problem requiring an international solution.”
Launch of the Rwanda E-Waste dismantling and recycling facility
The launch of the Rwanda E-Waste dismantling and recycling facility, the second of its kind in Africa, is a recent green growth milestone Rwanda has registered.
Located in Bugesera District, the facility is expected to prevent environmental hazards and create more than one thousand green jobs. According to environment experts, the new facility will ensure that old electronics no longer be a problem for Rwandans.
The Rwf 1.2 billion project was completed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) and financed by the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA), launched as part of the inaugural Rwanda Green Growth Week.
According to manager Olivier Mbera, the facility offers an “end-of-life” solution for electronic and electrical waste and allows the sustainable use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the country by preventing negative impacts of electronic waste on human health or the environment.
After just six months of operation, the facility has already collected 120 tonnes of e-waste, refurbished 400 computers for local schools, mitigated 279 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and dismantled 60 tonnes of e-waste.
Rwanda Green Growth Week
Rwanda’s ambitious path to sustainable development led to the inaugural national green growth week this past December. The campaign marked the first time the government has joined forces with national and international actors in an effort to promote and share experiences on green growth and climate resilient development.
The week was launched with a review of the progress and to advance aspirations in implementing the country’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. It also included a climate finance workshop, the launch of construction works for the improved Mageragere Prison wastewater treatment plant, among others, and concluded with a ‘Green Walk’ through Kigali.
Coletha Ruhamya, Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, told The New Times that the annual event will be another way “to contribute to Rwanda’s green growth agenda, strengthen climate services, and promote awareness of green cities and buildings and their development.”
Kigali Amendment ratification
Every environmentalist will tell you how momentous it was when Sweden became the 20th country to deposit its ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
The landmark Kigali Amendment took seven years to negotiate and kept parties to the Montreal Protocol awake at the Kigali Convention Centre for 24 hours, but it couldn’t enter into force until at least 20 countries ratified it.
In November, Sweden became the 20th country to ratify the amendment, meaning that the threshold has now been met for the agreement to enter into force on 1 January 2019.
The amendment has been described by experts as a key pillar of global climate action and will avoid up to half a degree Celsius of warming by 2100. The new global pact will eliminate hydrofluorocarbon—chemicals known as HFCs used in refrigerators and air conditioners- which are blamed for heating up the planet.
In 2017, the Ministry of Environment, together with affiliated agencies, police and the City of Kigali, made the protection of wetlands a priority by stepping up enforcement of the regulations that aim to conserve these important places of biodiversity and natural water management.
Building in wetlands and gazetted lands is prohibited by the law because they are valuable for agriculture, water storage and purification, flood buffering, fertile soils and erosion control.
Water Week activities
Last March, Rwanda marked World Water Day with a series of activities to raise awareness of the importance of integrated water resources management. The week was also a chance to call for greater private sector investment in water resources.
During the week-long set of activities, a media tour was organised, water supply systems were inaugurated, there was an exhibition of best practices, products and services, as well as the launch of the new National Water Supply and Sanitation policies and their implementing strategies.
World Environment Day
As happens every year, Rwanda joined the rest of the international community to mark World Environment Day through a week-long set of activities to encourage people to take part in conservation efforts and connect with nature. The week featured the launch of the Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco Tourism Park, an investment of the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) being implemented by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority.
Global environment summits
Throughout 2017, Rwandan officials took part in several international climate and environment related conferences such as the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) held in Bonn, Germany, the Global Green Growth Week held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the 29th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP29) held in Montreal, Canada, among others. These gave the chance for Rwanda to strengthen its partnerships with international organisations and contribute to the global momentum for climate action.
Clean air campaign
The year came to an end with a joint campaign from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority and Rwanda National Police to help beat air pollution. The campaign began with a “Kubaza Bitera Kumenya” town hall discussion broadcast on national television and will see the Rwanda National Police begin roadside testing of vehicles for excessive exhaust pollution.
The last year has been marked by significant progress for the environment sector and 2018 promises to deliver even greater impact as Rwanda strives to build a developed, low carbon economy.