Addressing challenges of small island states critical in protecting ozone: Environment minister

Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim has called on the international community to give due consideration to the specific challenges faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in phasing out harmful emissions.

Speaking during the 26th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, Thoriq said that the needs of the fishing industry should be addressed when assessing compliance with hydrocholrofluorocarbon (HCFC) reductions under the protocol.

The minister noted that “addressing HCFC uses for the cooling needs of the fisheries sector and related facilities would be critical for the compliance of SIDS under the Montreal Protocol,” explained the environment ministry.

One of the most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate changes, the Maldives relies on fishing for around 98 percent of its exports.

The Maldives is currently the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States – formed of 39 low-lying coastal and small island countries, many of whose economies depend on fishing.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – the first treaty to achieve universal ratification – obliges signatories to freeze the consumption and production of HCFCs, which contribute to global warming and climate change, between 2013 and 2015.

Having largely replaced the more harmful CFCs, HCFCs are now used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioning units.

Thoriq noted that the phasing out of HCFCs had seen a subsequent rise in the use of the alternative compound – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), reiterating the Maldives’ support to address the rise of HFCs, which still contribute to global warming despite not being harmful to the ozone layer.

United Nations Environment Programme estimates suggest that HFCs are 1000 times as harmful as carbon dioxide and could, within 30 to 40 years, wipe out all the progress achieved in avoiding carbon emissions under the protocol.

“In this regard, the Minister noted that the Montreal Protocol was suited to take on the task given its expertise and track record in the successful implementation of global environmental agreements,” read a press release from the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

Responding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in March this year, Thoriq called for a cap on global temperature rise, pledging to increase renewable energy to 30% in the next 5 years.

While Thoriq stated his belief that “averting catastrophe is still possible,” former President Mohamed Nasheed has expressed fears that Maldivians could become the world’s first climate change refugees.

“The world has lost the window of opportunity to mend its ways. Big emitters have sentenced us. The world temperature will rise, and the seas will rise over our nose,” Nasheed told the International Bar Association last month.

Thoriq has previously noted that 90 percent of islands in the Maldives are affected by coastal erosion, while former environment minister Mohamed Aslam has found that 50 percent of islands in Huvadhoo atoll shrank in size between 1969 to 2013.

Last month the ministry launched the ‘It’s cool at 25’ campaign calling for a more energy efficient use of air-conditioning units in the Maldives , with Thoriq noting that the country had one of the highest rates of energy use per capita in the South Asia region.

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