Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was awarded with the United Nation’s top environmental prize in Cancun, Mexico.
The Champions of Earth Award recognizes outstanding humans who churn their influence into sustainable development in the environmental spectrum. Paul Kagame, was recognized for his policy leadership in fighting climate change and in national environment action.
Unlike the common narrative of an African economy, Rwanda’s economy is built up of renewable resources – using its soil as a cornerstone of development. Land, forests, natural wildlife and waters cater immensely to the agriculture sector, household energy and tourism. The continuous use of such land can lead to degradation of the environment, and degradation of quality of human life. Which made it imperative to shelter the environment with policies, frameworks and protocols to adhere to.
Along with the vision to develop Rwanda as a middle-income country by the year 2020, President Kagame saw fit to prioritize national development – including sustainable environmental preservation. In 2011, under Kagame’s leadership, Rwanda developed National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development: The Green Growth and Climate Resilience. The strategy was in partnership with various organizations including the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment (SSEE) at the University of Oxford, the donor institutes UK DFID-Rwanda and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) with aim to reduce vulnerability to climate change.
The strategy implemented plans to uptake energy security, low-carbon energy supply as well as achieve appropriate land use and water resource management. The bottom line? To ensure energy security, food security, appropriate urban development and preserving ecosystems that will in turn reduce Rwanda’s vulnerability to climate change.
Kagame’s leadership also involved physical commitment to combatting illegal forestry, restoring wetlands, protecting the endangered Gorilla species of the Virunga National Park and being one of the first countries globally to ban plastic bags in 2013.
Two months ago, Rwanda hosted the Montreal Protocol meeting that passed the Kigali amendment – a revision of the protocol that could reduce 0.5 degrees Celsius from global warming by the end of the century we are living in.
Kagame was one of the top six leaders around the globe who received the prestigious award, including a Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, Indian organizer of world’s largest beach clean-up, Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, veteran Mexican biologist and an Austrailian eco innovator.