A report released last week documents how climate change has had a severe negative impact on the country's economy, and will continue to do so if no appropriate action is taken.
The study commissioned by the government and carried out by the Stockholm Environment Institute in collaboration with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) with financing from DfID. Amongst others, it shows how from 1997 onwards, several major floods caused by soil erosion have led to loss and damage of crops.
Specifically, the report documents the damages due to the annual flooding of Nyabugogo River, which mostly affects people living in the vicinity of the river; the flooding in Bahima valley that swept away crops and bridges; and the 2007 flooding in Nyabihu, Musanze and Rubavu districts, which demolished houses leaving to the majority of the affected displaced.
Such calamities result in significant economic damage. For instance, according to the study, the 2007 flooding caused an estimated loss of between US$ 4 million and 22 million.
Yet it is not only flooding that poses a danger. The researchers say that the ongoing increase in temperature trends might result in increased prevalence of diseases like malaria by 150% in the next 40 years, which could cost the country more than US$ 50 million every year to combat.
However, the report indicates that the dire consequences of climate change can be mitigated provided the right policies are in place. For instance, it is well-known that by establishing terraces and planting trees, soil erosion can be significantly reduced and carbon emissions absorbed.
There are also less obvious suggestions, such as enhancing the forecasting capacities by training meteorologists who can predict heavy rainfall (and the floods potentially resulting from it) in time.
Rwanda should also think ahead when it comes to development. For instance, the country is currently a minor emitter of greenhouse gas, yet the report warns that future developmental activities in transport and agriculture could result in a doubling of the emissions by 2020.
And it is important that these emissions remain low, because that might earn Rwanda money to finance more costly adaptations to climate change. Indeed, the report proposes to establish effective mechanisms to acquire the necessary funds to pay for these adaptations, and carbon trading comes to mind.
At the same time, the study warns that the generation of electricity in Lake Kivu could result in increased carbon emissions, thus higher carbon intensity in the entire country.