A lack of consolidated institutions for climate governance poses key challenges to the Maldives’ effort to save the country from dangers of climate change.
One of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level, the Maldives is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.
In international climate negotiations, as a developing country and a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Maldives has been a vocal advocate for strong mitigation and adaptation strategies against climate change.
The country has also been a recipient of large amounts of funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, under both bilateral and multilateral funding schemes.
According to a preliminary report on Climate Governance Integrity by Transparency Maldives, approximately US$160.5 million dollars is currently being spent on various projects through externally funded grants and loans.
However, the report stated that according to the Government, management of mitigation and adaptation projects has proven to be a difficult task as a result of limitations in human resources, institutional capacity, and local expertise in the field.
According to the report, the Maldives “lacks a comprehensible overall institutional framework and comprehensive policy for addressing climate change”.
The report stated that institutional rivalry and unclear mandates have resulted in confusion within institutions, in situations where one project is dealt with by two or more different institutions.
As as example, Transparency Maldives highlighted the Scaling up of Renewable Energy Projects (SREP). The project was initially planned and formulated by the Ministry of Housing and Environment (MHE) but was later handed over to the newly established Renewable Energy Investment Office (REIO) at the Ministry of Economic Development.
Challenges to climate governance include institutional mandates being in a “constant flux” in a transitional democracy, according to the report.
It noted that the former government appointed two presidential advisors – Mike Mason, an expert on renewable energy, carbon finance, and offsetting, and Mark Lynus, an environment activist and journalist – on climate change related policies, “both of whom resigned following the change of power on February 7. No new advisors have been appointed to date.”
The National Planning Council (NPC) under the Department of National Planning (DNP), one of the main bodies overseeing climate change projects, had ceased functioning following February 7 and was awaiting reform, the report noted.
The other major body providing expert advice on adaptation and mitigation efforts, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2020, was the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), a 15 member body chaired by President Mohamed Waheed while he was Vice President. The report noted that in 2011 the CCAC only met twice, “even though they initially planned to meet every fortnight according to the government press statement [at the time].”
Speaking to Minivan News, Senior Project Coordinator at Transparency Maldives Azim Zahir said, “New institutions have being created and the mandates are constantly changing. The change of administration in February is likely to affect consolidation as well.”
Another major challenge to climate governance is the absense of a comprehensive database on climate change projects in the Maldives, Zahir said.
“There is not a single institution that has a complete database on climate projects. It is very difficult to gather information and this makes it harder to incorporate anti-corruption safeguards,” Zahir added.
Last year, the NGO stated that it was vital to strengthen the governance structure of the country to properly manage climate change funding in order to meet mitigation and adaptation targets.
The Maldives rose slightly to rank 134 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2011, a mild improvement on 2010 when the Maldives was ranked 143th – below Zimbabwe.
Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, said at the time that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).
“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”