The Maldives will benefit from short-term funding for island and developing nations pledged at the The UN’s Climate Change Forum in Copenhagen, President Mohamed Nasheed told a press conference on his return home, even if the accord itself was not as comprehensive as hoped.
Ten per cent of the $30 billion in short-term funding would go towards helping small island nations adapt, he said.
“The talks were a success for the Maldives as funds were pledged for adaptation. We will get the money we need,” Nasheed said, adding that the challenge now was to improve the country’s capacity to undertake such large projects.
“I can say now with confidence that we will provide water, sanitation, electricity and build harbours in all islands. The only question is when can we do it? That depends on how fast we can work,” he said. “God willing, we will not face difficulties with money now.”
In addition, the Maldives’ high profile on the world stage now meant it can go straight to important world leaders, Nasheed said.
“A lot of people were depending on us, so I think if we need something and ask for it, now it will be easier to get it done.”
Nasheed drew praise from many world leaders, including Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, for his sustained negotiations with stubborn countries. Such mediation was necessary, Nasheed explained, due to a “deep mistrust” between developing and developed countries.
Six countries, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tuvalu opposed the accord.
Nasheed said he talked with the Tuvalu prime minister and the Cuban negotiator and convinced them to sign. “I pleaded with the Nicaraguan president. The Saudis stepped aside when the Americans asked them to…the Venezuelan official refused to speak to me. Just refused to speak at all.”
Others were friendlier. Nasheed was given a lift back to the conference centre by Rudd after a BBC debate, chatted with UK billionaire Richard Branson, and even had to cancel a meeting with former US presidential candidate and environmental advocate Al Gore due to a double-booking. “The World Bank president (Robert Zoellick) called constantly up to the last minute,” Nasheed added.
The cost of the trip was covered by other countries, while the ongoing publicity benefits would be considerable, he added.
“We spend US$1 million on tourism promotion. Even if we had spent billions I’m certain we wouldn’t have got the same degree of coverage as we have over the past two or three weeks across the world on newspapers and TV.”
The accord itself “was a good beginning”, and a far better outcome than failure, he noted.
“If we had been unable to get this, everything would have failed. We were working in an environment of fear that could have caused serious conflicts among nations,” he said. “If no accord had been reached, the status of the UN would have been in jeopardy while some European leaders would have been unable to go back to their people.”
Nasheed said he viewed the final accord as a framework with “many promising features that could become legally binding.”
“A decision will be made on lowering the limit from 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees celsius based on the advice and counsel of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change in 2015,” he explained.
“The science says the world really has seven years to make a decision. If something is not done in seven years, climate change will go beyond our control or reach a tipping point.”