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Kagame wins UN award on Environmental protection
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President Paul Kagame has been named as one of the winners of the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade, in recognition of Rwanda’s outstanding achievements in environmental protection.

Kagame, is one of six exceptional individuals, selected from across the globe, to receive the “Champions of the Earth” award - UN’s top environmental prize. The annual prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.

The other five recipients of the “Champions of the Earth” award include; Afroz Shah, Indian environmental organizer (Action and Inspiration); Moroccan Sustainable Energy Agency, MASEN (Entrepreneurial Vision); Jose Sarukhan Kermez, 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 were 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.

Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources—who is attending the UN Biodiversity Conference in Mexico—received the award on behalf of President Kagame.

The Champions of the Earth award in the Policy Leadership category—which was bestowed to Kagame recognizes Rwanda’s ‘forward-thinking environmental initiatives” under Kagame’s leadership to mitigate the effects of climate change on the small African nation, according to the statement from UN environment programme (UNEP).

The award cites the country’s commitment to combating illegal forestry; restoring vital wetlands; protecting the habitat of 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, in a statement that, President Kagame “exemplifies the leadership needed” around the world to confront the environmental challenges faced today and for othe future generations.

“He (Kagame) 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.” Solheim said.

He added, “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.”

Indeed, 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, according to UNEP, 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. 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,”President Kagame said in a statement accepting the award.

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 primates—Mountain gorilla, in the Virunga National Park.

Since their inception 12 years ago, the Champion of the Earth awards have recognized 78 laureates - ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists - in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.

According to minister Biruta, Rwanda’s leadership in banning the use of non-biodegradable polythene bags almost a decade ago and the successful hosting the 28th meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol which led to the historical passing of the Kigali Amendment to phase down Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)—a dangerous greenhouse gas—are among other reasons why Kagame was named among the 2016 “Champions of the Earth”.

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