13/10/2014 10:51 BST | Updated 13/12/2014 05:59 GMT

Rwanda Starts Its Engine of Green Growth

On Thursday, Rwanda's Prime Minister, Anastase Murekezi, launched the Fund for the Environment and Climate Change, modelled on a 'green bank' concept and designed to invest in projects that promote sustainability and tackle climate change. The fund is the first of its kind in Rwanda and the biggest in Africa and comes just weeks after the UN Climate Summit in New York.

For more than a decade, Rwanda has been at the forefront of environmental protection on the continent. Rwanda's location and environment mean the country is particularly at risk of the negative impacts of climate change. We have already seen devastating floods in the north of the country and droughts in the east. Landslides have destroyed homes and our unique ecosystems and biodiversity are under threat.

Our environment has taught us that tough protection measures are crucial.

And that is why we banned plastic bags, created and expanded national parks and safe-guarded one of our most important natural treasures, the endangered mountain gorillas. We are also investing heavily in renewable energy like solar and hydro power. Today, Rwanda is one of the cleanest countries in Africa and gorilla numbers are rebounding.

But we know this is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Rwanda's location and environment mean the country is particularly at risk of the negative impacts of climate change. Speaking at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said: "Climate change is a challenge for economies worldwide, but needs ownership at the national level." The fund is one way Rwanda is stepping up and taking responsibility and ownership of the climate challenge.

By setting up the green fund, Rwanda is also positioning itself to efficiently utilize environment and climate financing from all around the world. Rwanda's Fund for the Environment and Climate Change has already attracted over 50 million pounds.

To date, the fund has approved 18 projects for financing and each are at various stages of implementation. They cover a wide range of development areas including natural resources and ecosystem management, electronic waste management and renewable energy investment. All the fund's projects are aimed at boosting Rwanda's green economy through investment and employment.

In addition to public sector projects, the fund also targets private sector investments by encouraging new and established enterprises to take advantage of green economic opportunities through innovation grants and a line of credit mechanism. The line of credit facility is implemented in partnership with the Rwanda Development Bank and leverages resources at reduced interest rate of 11.45%, considerably lower than market rates.

Rwanda's Environment and Climate Change Fund is demand driven. It needs to attract the level of financing required to address the climate change threats faced by the country's economy and focus on high quality projects that deliver tangible results. The fund also goes a step further by pushing our beneficiaries to think in a unique way to ensure their projects effectively address climate challenges in a sustainable manner. By maintaining the level of quality performance and credibility required to attract global climate finance, we know the benefits will be long lasting.

At the launch of the fund, policy makers, development partners, beneficiaries and the private sector came together to discuss how to best take hold of the vast opportunities available through global climate finance commitments. It soon became clear that Rwanda's socio-economic transformation must be at the heart of any green growth strategy.

Our aim is to ensure the fund serves as the engine of green growth in Rwanda for the next 50 years. As a nation, we want the lives of all Rwandans to be improved by an economy that's clean, green and sustainable. After all, our people are our greatest natural resource.

The fund is also an example that with enough determination at the national level, country by country, developed and developing economies can find ways to tackle the threat climate change poses to us all.