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From Paris to Marrakech: How Rwanda became a model for climate action

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From Paris to Marrakech: How Rwanda became a model for climate action

David Toovey

30 Nov 2016

5min min read
  • Climatic changes

The successful amendment of the Montreal Protocol in Kigali and Rwanda’s approach to climate action are examples the world can learn from when addressing the challenge of a warming planet. David Toovey of Rwanda’s Green Fund takes a closer look. 


uring the climate talks in Paris where the most comprehensive environment treaty in history was reached, Rwanda stood out as a nation already on the path to the sustainable development. From the beginning of negotiations, the country also took a strong position on what needed to be achieved: a robust agreement that kept warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and that gave vulnerable nations the resources and technology they need to both reduce their contribution to climate change and respond to its impacts.

The outcome eventually reached in Paris was clear: to limit global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius, with the ambition to not go above 1.5 degrees. With the goal posts firmly in place, the challenge is now translating this aspiration into tangible action on the ground. This was the focus of the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco.


It is here that Rwanda provides some lessons the world can learn from. From grassroots efforts to protect important forest carbon sinks to global diplomacy efforts, Rwanda has been at the forefront of action on climate issues. The country now has a reputation as a strong advocate for vulnerable nations and a dynamic leader in setting the policy and institutional frameworks for accessing international climate finance for sustainable development.

For Rwanda, a country whose average temperatures have already increased by 1.4 degrees Celsius since the 1970s and could reach higher than 2.5 degrees Celsius above normal by mid-century, ‘climate action’ and ‘sustainability’ are not buzzwords. They are clear policy and practical imperatives that are now the key factors shaping the country’s development agenda.

FONERWA – Rwanda’s Green Fund

To support this effort, Rwanda set up its own Green Fund, FONERWA (a French acronym), which finances climate resilience initiatives across the country. More than $100 million has been mobilised and the fund has already created 60 000 green jobs. The fund’s investments have restored more than 8 500 hectares of watersheds and water bodies and protected almost 13 000 hectares of land against erosion. It has also supported tree planting and agro-forestry on more than 21 000 hectares across the country. In terms of green growth, 6 807 households have improved access to off-grid energy thanks to investments made by the fund and private sector partners. The fund is one of the main reasons Rwanda’s Ministry of Natural Resources was the first government entity to be accredited by the global Green Climate Fund based in South Korea.

The work of Rwanda’s Green Fund, together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), is being guided by the country’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. This cross-sector strategy aims for Rwanda to be a developed, low carbon and climate resilient nation by 2050. This is crucial to respond to the extreme vulnerability to climate change impacts faced by the country. From January to September this year alone, torrential rains and drought, as well as other disasters, were responsible for the tragic deaths of more than 50 people and losses amounting to more than $30 million, according the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs.

Kigali Amendment

The country’s vulnerability is just one reason why Rwanda has put itself at the forefront of international climate negotiations, recognising that national action alone will not solve the challenges it faces. In October 2016, the country hosted the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, at which another historic agreement was adopted: the Kigali Amendment.

Reached after seven years of negotiations, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol represents the most significant action on climate change since the Paris Agreement and could avoid up to half a degree of warming by the end of the century by phasing out hydrofluorocarbons. The amendment also sets the standard in terms of the tangible action the world can take if all countries come together in the spirit of action oriented cooperation and collaboration.

The Kigali Amendment, along with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and a recent decision by the aviation industry to limit emission to 2020 levels, were the perfect momentum the world needed going into COP22. With this focus on ‘action’, COP22 looked to the Kigali Amendment and Rwanda as examples of tangible responses to climate change.

Speaking at the conference and referring to the recent Montreal Protocol meeting, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “I salute and congratulate Rwanda for the incredible work done to organise a successful meeting last month that led to the Kigali Amendment.”

With support of partners including the Climate Development Knowledge Network, Rwanda’s delegation in Marrakech shared the experience of hosting the Montreal Protocol meeting and how the country is responding to climate change and protecting its natural environment.

While Rwanda continues to face a range of climate-related challenges, such sharing of positive experiences and lessons learned, especially between developing and vulnerable nations, is essential. With all it has achieved to date, Rwanda is a good example to look to as the world strives to meet the goals set under the Paris Agreement.

This is an edited version of a post that was first published on the Climate & Development Knowledge Network.

(Main image: Flickr/ Green Fund Rwanda)