By UNEP Newsdesk
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has been announced as one of the winners of the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade, in recognition of Rwanda’s outstanding achievements in environmental protection.
The Champions of the Earth award in the Policy Leadership category, which the Rwandan Minister of Natural Resources, Dr. Vincent Biruta, is accepting on the President’s behalf, recognizes Rwanda’s forward-thinking environmental initiatives under Kagame’s leadership to mitigate the effects of climate change on the small African nation.
The award cites the country’s commitment to combatting illegal forestry; restoring vital wetlands; protecting the habitatof endangered gorillas; becoming one of the first countries in the world to ban the use of plastic bags; and hosting the Montreal Protocol meeting this year that passed the Kigali Amendment, which could cut up to 0.5 degrees Celsius from global warming by the end of this century.
Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said, “President Kagame exemplifies the leadership needed around the world to confront the environmental challenges we face today and for our future generations. He has placed the protection of the environment at the heart of Rwanda’s national development strategy, displaying an acute understanding that good environmental stewardship is vital for our economies and well-being.”
“Rwanda’s commitment to ecosystem restoration, in particular, is proof that meeting environmental challenges can generate income and still meet growing consumption needs of a developing population. In fact, under Kagame’s leadership and vision, Rwanda has shown that countries stand to gain exponential economic benefits if ecosystems are kept healthy and productive.”
Rwanda’s economy and its people depend heavily on natural resources: land, forests, waters and wildlife, as they provide the basis for farming, fishing, household energy and tourism. At the same time, these resources are under increasing pressure from a growing population, unsustainable use, soil erosion, deforestation and climate change.
Yet Rwanda has become an inspirational model of how to integrate economic development with environmental sustainability, how to reduce poverty through reducing vulnerability, and how to make the environment everyone’s business.
“The environment is at the heart of Rwanda’s development,” said President Kagame. “By protecting our natural heritage, including the endangered mountain gorilla and ancient rainforests, and by involving everyone in conservation, we are ensuring that our development is sustainable and brings prosperity to all citizens. These efforts are driven by shared political will and a commitment to a bright future for generations to come.”
By working closely with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in a shared commitment to ecosystem restoration, Rwanda has helped to restore the critically endangered population of one of the world’s rarest species of gorilla in the Virunga National Park.
About Champions of the Earth
The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.
Since being founded twelve years ago, the awards have recognized 78 laureates – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.
President Kagame joinsAfroz Shah, Indian environmental organizer (Action and Inspiration);Moroccan Sustainable Energy Agency, MASEN (Entrepreneurial Vision); Jose SarukhanKermez, Mexican research biologist (Life-time Achievement); Leyla Acaroglu, Australian sustainability innovator (Science and Innovation); and a posthumous Action and Inspiration award for Berta Cáceres, Honduran rights campaigner killed in March 2016.
The awards will be given out as part of a high-level reception hosted by the Government of Mexico at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, December 2, 2016.