7 April 2013

Rwanda: Can the Private Sector Save the World From Global Warming?

The earth's surface is increasing­ly becoming warmer, too warm that it's gradually turning into an uncomfortable place for human settlement, yet its man's activities to blame for his new misery.

Scientists say that greenhouse gas­es are accumulating in Earth's atmo­sphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and sub-surface ocean temperatures to rise and the changes observed over the last several decades point the blame to human activities.

Several international conventions have been held with World leaders pledging efforts to rally their people in campaigns aimed at protecting Mother Nature.

Yet at the same time, world leaders are fighting to revive their economies through more industrialization to cre­ate urgently needed jobs to lift growth which has been affected by recent global shocks.

These efforts are seen as the biggest threat to environment and a balance must be found to create harmony be­tween development and conserva­tion.

This is precisely what officials at the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) aimed to achieve when they held countrywide train­ings of key delegates from the Private Sector Federation (PSF), a campaign that made the rounds through all five provinces and ended with a two day workshop for PSF members in Kigali last week.

What they told participants in all five provinces was a simple appeal to the private sector to incorporate envi­ronmental conservation in their com­mercial activities.

"What we expect from you is that you consider the protection of the environment in everything you do. When you plan to start a business, asses its impact to the environment," said Eng. Coletta Ruhamya REMA's Deputy Director General.

Rwanda is part of several multi­lateral environmental agreements (MEA) whose implementation REMA says need the support of all stake holders in the country including the Private Sector.

Most environmental conservation concerns are regarded by experts as trade issues hence the need to actively engage them in advancing successful policies to conserve nature.

Ban on plastics:

A month ago, REMA and PSF signed a memorandum of under­standing in which the two parties agreed to be partners in conserving Rwanda's environment.

REMA is preaching the concept of "sustainable development; growth that meets the needs of the present without compromising future genera­tions to meet their own needs.'

As bait, custodians of environmen­tal conservation in the country are telling the business community that rather than looking at REMA's regu­lations and other environmental leg­islations as limitations to their own commercial activities, it's high time they figured out the opportunities these new needs present.

A more current issue is the strict ban on the use of plastics in Rwanda which a section of Rwanda's Private sector especially the manufacturers claim is hurting their profitability but environmentalists argue that therein lies a business opportunity such as recycling or production of alternative packaging materials.

Government commitment to envi­ronmental protection has seen its en­vironmental conservation efforts rec­ognized on the international level.

In September 2011, the World Fu­ture Council awarded Rwanda's Na­tional Forest Policy as the world's most inspiring and innovative forest policy.

In September 2012, Rwanda was again awarded by the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) for its outstanding contribution to the Protection of the Ozone Layer that protects earth from harmful ultravio­let radiation from the sun.

On the regional level, Rwanda is ahead of its neighbors on implement­ing key resolutions such as the ban on the use of plastics and other poly­thene deemed as harmful to the envi­ronment.

Understanding the problem:

Presented with an opportunity to make money, many ignore the risks posed by their commercial activities hence creating the current conflict be­tween conservationists and Business executives.

Take for instance, the greenhouse effect, a natural process by which the radiant heat from the Sun is captured in the lower atmosphere of the Earth, thus maintaining proper temperature levels on the Earth's surface for hu­man habitation.

The problem is, harmful human activities have increased these 'green house gasses' which in turn are trap­ping excessive heat from the sun caus­ing what scientists are calling 'global warming.'

Scientists warn that the burning of oil, gas and coal has numerous envi­ronmental impacts and that on a glob­al scale, the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and other sources adds to the greenhouse effect which is responsible for increasing global warming.

"Fossil fuel pollution can return to earth in form of acidic rain harmful to our forests and wild life as well as fos­sil fuels that release volatile organic compounds, harmful to our health," an expert told PSF participants dur­ing one of the training sessions.

Gisele Umuhumuza a Research Of­ficer with REMA shocked participants when she revealed that global fisher­ies are underperform by US$50 bil­lion annually due to over-exploitation of most commercially valuable fish stocks.

In Rwanda's case, the country's fish stocks are not enough to feed the na­tion and we have to rely on imports to fill the gaps.

Yet the future is bleak:

Experts warn that world carbon dioxide emissions are expected to in­crease by 1.9% annually between 2001 and 2025 with much of the increase in these emissions expected to occur in the developing world where emerg­ing economies are fueling economic development with fossil energy...stocking the atmosphere with more greenhouse gasses.

In fact, developing countries' emis­sions are expected exceed the world average at 2.7 percent annually by 2025 and surpass emissions of indus­trialized countries by 2018.

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