In many developing countries, climate change and sustainability are seen as unnecessary or unaffordable ‘add-ons’ in the immediate pursuit of poverty alleviation, better living standards and economic growth. Thus, constrained public finances and a limited understanding of the opportunities green and climate-resilient growth can offer mean that some administrations may continue to pursue development based upon the artificially cheap and polluting fossil-fuel energy sources and the overuse of land and other natural resources.
Rwanda’s approach to development, as embedded in its NDC, is based upon a long-term vision that values healthy and productive land and natural ecosystems. Since 2011, its comprehensive Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy has helped to organise and identify linkages between adaptation and mitigation across sectors. Building on existing policies and lessons learned, Rwanda’s initial NDC is a good example of how governments can integrate climate change and sustainability into the national development agenda to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods, protect natural resources and ecosystems, and grow the economy. The recent cross-visit from Benin to Rwanda to share the local approach to climate change organised by EU GCCA+, shows the Rwandan approach attracts interest.
The NDC notes that Rwanda is densely populated, highly vulnerable to climate change, and strongly reliant on rain-fed agriculture both for rural livelihoods and for exports of mainly tea and coffee. Unsurprisingly, building resilience across the land-use and water-management sectors is being prioritised. Both are also seen as integral to achieving energy security and a low-carbon energy supply that supports the development of green industry and a sustainable tourism sector.
Rwanda used extensive data analysis to inform estimates of its mitigation potential and to quantify conditional and unconditional mitigation contributions in its first NDC. In 2020, it was among the first countries to submit an updated NDC that builds on these targets by detailing implementing entities, time frames, the required funding, interlinkages and synergies between the different sectors and components. In the transport sector, for example, Rwanda aims to mitigate by reducing emissions through tax incentives, scrapping old vehicles while, at the same time, working with the bus system and promoting the electric vehicle programme alongside a climate-resilient approach to road infrastructure.
Harnessing the power of mainstreaming climate change means Rwanda’s NDC reads like a green development plan. Furthermore, the government has prioritised developing a better capacity to measure, report and verify its efforts to help to bridge the current gaps in action and finance. Rwanda wants to move forward quickly, exploring how to meet its conditional targets through a good mix and use of climate funds, new market-based mechanisms, and support from international donors.