Comment: Maldives ‘ahead of the pack’ in highlighting climate change

The Government and people of the Maldives have been ahead of the pack when it comes to highlighting the impacts of climate change. Initiatives such as holding Cabinet meetings underwater and having ambitious plans to become the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020 make a serious point about the impacts of climate change on all vulnerable countries.

With 80% of the Maldives 1,200 islands no more than one metre above sea level a rise in global temperature and sea levels threatens the country’s very existence. Many of you will have already experienced the impacts of climate change; the more frequent and intense storm surges.

That is why the Maldives and the UK Governments have been working hard in the run up to the UN Conference on Climate Change. We both want to see the most ambitious deal possible at Copenhagen.

The UK believes global agreement around a deal limiting the global average temperature rise to a maximum 2 degrees (the Maldives, with other island states, are pressing for a 1.5 – one of the main areas to be resolved at Copenhagen); commits the world to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and provides a financial package that will help the most vulnerable nations represents, the best way to protect countries particularly exposed to climate effects, such as the Maldives.

That is why the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has proposed a “Copenhagen Launch Fund” to help developing countries tackle climate change immediately. That is $10 billion to be spent on helping developing countries adapt to climate change and reducing greenhouse gases with “payment for results, with priority for the poorest and most vulnerable countries”.

Global discussion and co-operation is crucial to the success of Copenhagen and beyond. The 18th of December does not mark an end to the process. Whatever the outcome of the conference is, the battle against climate change will not be won.

That is why the Maldives and the UK both have a role to play in ensuring that the momentum of Copenhagen is not lost once the last delegate has left the table. Only a continued and sustained global effort from us all will successfully avert the serious risk climate change poses to our future.

Ivan Lewis is Minister of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

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