Environment Minister pledges to minimize Maldives dependence on fossil fuels

Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim has called for increased investment in clean energy in the Maldives and pledged to minimize the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The government is working on a low carbon development strategy to improve energy security and strengthen the economy, Thoriq told participants of a one-day workshop at the Nasandhura Palace Hotel this morning.

The Environment Minister’s announcement comes at a time when President Abdulla Yameen has called for investment in oil exploration in the country.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee told Minivan News in late April that at least one investor is scheduled to visit the Maldives for discussions on exploration. Shainee had assured potential investors of presence of oil in the Maldives at a recent investment forum in Singapore.

However, Thoriq today expressed concern over “the vulnerability of the Maldivian economy due to high dependence on fossil fuels.”

The country spends 30 percent of its GDP on importing fossil fuels, he said. In 2012, the Maldives had spent US$ 486 million on oil imports, and the figure is estimated to increase to US$ 700 million by 2020.

Lying just a meter above sea level, the Maldives is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.

Thoriq has previously said the government will convert 30 percent of daily peak electrical load to renewable energy.

“Maldives is committed to introduce cost-effective renewable energy as part of a diverse, low carbon and secure energy mix in our low carbon development. We are determined and actively working towards making 30 percent of daily peak electrical load of all populated islands to renewable energy within next five years,” he said in a statement on April 14.

The workshop at Nasandhura was held to present an assessment – carried out by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) – on the potential of low carbon development in the Maldives. Minivan News was unable to obtain the document from the Environment Ministry at the time of press.

According to a press release, the assessment will help the government “make an informed contribution to climate negotiations ongoing or the new climate agreement set to be agreed in Paris in 2015.”

An official from the Environment Ministry told Minivan News that the Maldives policy on climate change has not yet been set, but said that a draft is currently under review. He said the climate change draft policy framework consists of five goals; sustainable financing, low carbon development, adaptation and opportunities, advocacy and awareness, and sustainable development.

Thoriq has previously said the Maldives will call for global temperature rise to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celcius.

In 2009, Global leaders recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius” to combat climate change.

Earlier this week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that too many stakeholders are still “sitting on the fence”, as he challenged participants at a climate conference in Abu Dhabi to make bold political decisions to combat climate change.

“Change is in the air. I challenge you to be part of that change – to be at the head of the race,” he encouraged.


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