The government says it remains committed to pursuing the previous administration’s carbon neutral ambitions despite recent political tensions reportedly affecting investment potential for such schemes.
Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela contended that some of the programs presently being undertaken by her ministry had started seven years previously – before Former President Mohamed Nasheed came to power – and were being adhered to on the grounds they would benefit the nation.
“We are continuing with the carbon neutrality program,” she said. “ We are giving it our best shot.”
Nasheed, who alleges he was forced to resign under duress back in February of this year, claimed that resulting political tensions from his ouster had all but ended hopes of achieving these aims. The former president aimed to position himself globally as a high profile advocate for pursuing carbon neutral developments.
However, as the Maldives commits itself to a new US$138 million project that it has claimed within five years will generate 16 megawatts of renewable energy, one regional environmental organisation has called for greater collaboration between Indian Ocean nations to drive sustainability.
Mumbai-based NGO, the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) has told Minivan News that despite being a small island state, the Maldives stood as a good indicator of how other larger nations could scale up its programs to successfully undertake green initiatives.
“Maldives needs to assume a bigger role in the sustainability dialogue with India and a clear road map on how this will be achieved has to be stipulated,” CERE stated, pointing to the key commitments it hoped to see from the present government.
The comments were made as the Maldives Energy Authority yesterday told local media that once the US$138 million project became operational, ten islands within the country would be entirely powered with renewable energy. The ministry contended that a further 30 percent of the total energy demands of 30 islands would be “converted” to renewable energy.
Minister of State for Environment and Energy, Abdul Matheen Mohamed, said that a so-called Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) was also set to be conducted on 50 islands with assistance from organisations like the Climate Investment Fund as part of wider national sustainability commitments, according to Haveeru.
Environment Minister Dr Shakeela confirmed to Minivan News today that the SREP scheme was directly related to the the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries devised under the previous government of former President Nasheed.
Some of the key minds who helped devise the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) for the former government said earlier this year that the project had fallen through after political instability following February’s controversial transfer of power had deterred potential investors in the scheme.
Dr Shakeela, who was in Hyderabad, India, for the 11th Convention on Biological Diversity confirmed that the project had been within the Economic Ministry before she retrieved and reviewed the plans.
“I worked on it with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the IFC and it has now been finished,” she said.
“I think it is important [to understand] that our ministry does not categorise projects according to who has [initiated them]. Our plan is to continue them with all the policies and programs as long as they are not detrimental to the economy.”
The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has previously stressed that it was committed to “not completely” reversing the Nasheed administration’s zero carbon strategy: “What we are aiming to do is to elaborate more on individual sustainable issues and subject them to national debate.”
As well as committing to trying meet the carbon neutral goals of his predecessor, President Waheed has also announced plans to make the Maldives the world’s largest marine reserve within the next five years five.
Addressing the Maldives’ ongoing eco-commitments, CERE claimed that the main challenge for carbon reduction developments both in the country and around the world was to show sustainability projects could actually be synonymous with economic benefit.
CERE Co-Founder Kitayun (Katy) Rustom claimed that the organisation continued to try and advocate green strategies that defied traditional perceptions of sustainability being seen as ‘anti-development’ or ‘anti-growth’.
“It is necessary for all of countries to realise that our window of opportunity for carbon reduction is only till 2020 – after this it will be next to impossible to mitigate the disastrous and irreversible impacts of climate change,” she claimed.
“The key challenge is to see carbon reduction as a positive economic initiative.”
Rustom said that the Maldives’ ongoing attempts to become a carbon neutral economy were well publicised in India and reflected a “commonality of purpose” between the two nations.
“India is one of the most vulnerable to climate change especially with respect to sea level rise – just like the Maldives – since it has a 7,500 km long coastline and even a one metre rise in sea levels will submerge an estimated 5,700 square kilometres displacing millions of people,” she added.
“Of course, there are a host of other catastrophic impacts that climate change will have on our country. India does not see itself as any different from the island states in the Indian Ocean and it understands the need of working on a united platform.”
Rustom added that she ultimately hoped for much more defined collaborations between the authorities of Indian Ocean nations in future.
“A cross-sharing of carbon reduction strategies need to be encouraged and formalised in which quantitative targets need to be spelt out. The Maldives needs to assume a bigger role in the sustainability dialogue with India and a clear road map on how this will be achieved has to be stipulated,” she said.
“Perhaps the Ministry of Environments of both countries can set up a Indian-Maldivian Committee to work on this mission and lay down specific goals.”
Earlier this year, former President Nasheed’s Climate Change Advisor – UK-based author, journalist and environmental activist Mark Lynas – said that after the controversial nature of the transfer that bought the present government to power, he was sceptical of its ability to take stands on sustainable development.
Lynas claimed that the loss of “democratic legitimacy” in the Maldives had destroyed its ability to make a moral stand on climate change-related issues, and be taken seriously.
“I think that the Maldives is basically a has-been in international climate circles now,” said Lynas, who drew a monthly stipend of Rf10,000 (US$648) for expenses whilst serving in his position.
“The country is no longer a key player, and is no longer on the invite list to the meetings that matter. Partly this is a reflection of the political instability – other countries no longer have a negotiating partner that they know and understand,” he said.