Rwanda - Environmentalists urge climate resilience to avert losses

23.06.2022 205 views

From loss of human life and livestock, to crop failure and food insecurity to infrastructure destruction, climate change is having far-reaching effects on communities. To reverse such a situation, environmentalists have called for greater adaptation efforts for resilience against climate shocks.

At a session dubbed; “Commonwealth and climate change: Accelerating action”, held on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Business Forum, environmentalists underscored that climate change is an urgent issue to tackle, warning that inaction would lead to a catastrophe to communities.

It is part of the breakfast meeting on climate change hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat where delegates exchanged on stepping up climate ambition and enhancing climate action in the member countries as well as the association’s call to action on living lands.

Living lands mean lands which are sustainably managed and used such as through tackling desertification and drought for increased crop production, and biodiversity protection.

“We need to accelerate climate action, address land degradation and halt the loss of biodiversity, while restoring our ecosystem,” said the Minister of Environment, Jeanne d'Arc Uwamariya. 

Mujawamariya said that Rwanda needs $11 billion (over Rwf11 trillion based on the current exchange rate) in order to implement its updated national determined contribution (NDC) which is like the country's national plan to tackle climate change either through adaptation efforts or addressing the climate change impact.

To get such funding, which she described as a significant amount for this plan it submitted to the UN in 2020 before the 26th Conference of Parties to the Paris Climate Agreement (COP26), she said that Rwanda has to work with different partners including local public and private entities as well as foreign ones for resource mobilisation.

Under this initiative, she said “Rwanda set an ambitious goal in our updated NDC to reduce emissions by 38 per cent, compared to the business as usual, by 2030 and invest in adaptation interventions that enhance our resilience to climate change.”

The targeted actions in the plan include moving away from petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles to electric ones or adopting e-mobility; as well as reducing the reliance on firewood and charcoal for cooking among Rwandan households.

Mujawamariya told The New Times that Rwanda has huge investment opportunities in e-mobility, indicating that the country exempted tax on electric vehicles with the aim to encourage investors.

The country, she said, has many climate change threats, but observed that the one on top is soil erosion aggravated by deforestation, indicating that heavy rainfall carries away the country’s soil because it is bare – with no forest cover.

“So the major threat is soil erosion and deforestation. If we fix those two issues which are in one, because when you cover the land with forests, you fight soil erosion. And how do we implement those two? We have to stop cutting trees, and we have to find alternative clean cooking energy sources for our people. We have to do our best in order to shift from using firewood and charcoal for cooking,” she observed.

Estimates from the Ministry of Environment suggest that every year, Rwanda loses about 15 million tonnes of soil  that is carried away by erosion. This problem reduces the country's capacity to feed about 40,000 residents, and the monetary value of such land degradation is estimated at $34 million per year.

Louise Baker, Managing Director of Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said that drought causes crop failure and kills livestock, which have dire effects on people’s lives.

She said that adaptation to climate change including land restoration is important to improving soil and crop productivity, as well as people’s livelihoods.

“What we want is that the fair share of climate finance goes to adaptation and resilience so that we protect communities from suffering loss and damage,” she told The New Times.

Yannick Glemarec, the Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund told The New Times that the fund provides between $2 billion and $3 billion in anti-climate change financing annually, of which 37 per cent goes to Africa.

“The Green Climate Fund is to basically support countries in realising the adaptation and mitigation objective to avert catastrophic climate change,” he said, pointing out that it allocates half of its financing to adaptation and another half to mitigation actions.

He warned that the failure to limit the global temperatures to 1.5 degrees as stated under the Paris Agreement, would be ‘an existential threat,’ rooting for interventions to cool the planet.

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