Maldives should forget about mitigating climate change, says Bluepeace

The Maldives should forget about stopping the effects of climate change and focus instead on adaptation, says environmental NGO Bluepeace.

“Mitigation is something we have to forget about at the national level,” said Bluepeace Executive Director Ali Rilwan.

Rilwan’s comments come after the conclusion of UN climate change talks in Peru, which have resulted in an agreement slammed as “very weak” by environmental groups.

“We don’t have much faith,” said Rilwan, citing the international community’s failure to follow through on previous commitments. “Locally, we have to look at adaptation. Maldives is the most low-lying country – we have to have dry land.”

As talks concluded in Lima, a delegation of cabinet ministers headed to Beijing for economic talks that will include plans for oil exploration in Maldivian territorial waters – a policy Rilwan described as “ironic”.

China-Maldives Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation

“On paper, there are a lot of adaptation programmes, but in reality you don’t see it happening,” he said, perceiving a lack of concern about climate change within the Maldives.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has gained international acclaim as an environmental activist, has recently expressed his concern that the chance to mitigate the effects of climate change has been missed.

“The world has lost the window of opportunity to mend its ways,” he told the International Bar Association in October, suggesting Maldivians were likely to become the world’s first climate change refugees.

“Big emitters have sentenced us. The world temperature will rise, and the seas will rise over our nose.”

“And what restitution, if any, can be made for the damage done to us – damage we warned about, but did not cause? I fear that these questions will be answered one day, not in the abstract, but in a court of law. And I fear that we, the people of the Maldives, will be the star witness.”

Lima Declaration

The Lima Declaration sets out a framework which further differentiates developing and rich states, as well as retaining plans for a “loss and damage” scheme to provide financial support to “vulnerable” developing nations.

However, plans to determine what information countries should provide in future emission reduction pledges were watered down after fierce negotiations.

The word “may” instead of “shall” was eventually used in the final text regarding quantifiable information to show how states intend to reduce emissions targets.

WWF officials have said the declaration text “went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed”, while Friends of the Earth International said fears the talks would fail to deliver “a fair and ambitious outcome” had been proven “tragically accurate”.

The reduction pledges are required prior to the COP 21 climate change talks in Paris next December, which will seek to decide upon a new framework for a universal and legally binding agreement on climate change.

Maldivian representatives in Lima told the conference this week: “We do not want to be in Paris to get perished”.

Maldives delegation at UN climate conference in Peru

Noting the recent pledges to the Green Climate Fund – intended to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 – Ambassador Ahmed Sareer said that “as a small island developing state that is constantly facing an existential threat, the current pledges are simply not enough”.

Officials from the environment ministry were not responding to calls at the time of press.

The Maldives has recently become chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), while former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called on larger nations to allow vulnerable states to take a lead in climate change policy.

Ambassador Sareer said this week that the Maldives’ share of global emission is negligible, and that the government of Maldives was striving to make the country resilient.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy reported that Sareer also attended a number of fringe events in Lima, telling attendees at a Japanese event of the Maldives’ plans to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

As part of a move to reduce this dependency – which consumes around 30 percent of the country’s GDP – the current government has pledged to work with international groups to explore the potential of oil and gas reserves in the country.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Shainee told media that the government would discuss the issue with two Chinese companies this week as a delegation headed to Beijing for the first China-Maldives Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation.

India has already offered to assist in oil exploration within Maldivian territorial waters, while a seismic survey was carried out by a German research vessel in August.

Related to this story

Maldivians could be among first climate refugees, warns Nasheed

Silk road deal to be concluded in China-Maldives economic committee

Former President Gayoom calls for leadership of small island states in climate change


Transport vehicles need renewable energy plan: Blue Peace

“Solar power is not the only source, and it is not enough. We have to pursue other sources as well,” said BluePeace founder Ali Rilwan about the Maldives’ recently proposed mission to cut emissions by 60 percent, using solar energy primarily.

The government’s plan was approved by the Cabinet last month, and a recent proposal from the Renewable Energy Investment Office (REIO) was submitted for crowdsourcing on the internet last week.

Rilwan called the mission admirable but incomplete. “Proposals have been made, but we haven’t seen anything in the Maldives in years,” he said. According to Rilwan, the Maldives is overlooking one of the most significant energy-consuming functions in the country: water transport.

Over 25 percent of the Maldives’ GDP is spent on diesel used for boats.

“Wetlands and vegetation absorb carbon dioxide, and the oceans are being affected by boats’ daily diesel use. But nobody has studied the specifics of carbon sinking, to calculate that 60 percent emissions reduction we need to evaluate how much needs to be done,” he elaborated. “We don’t know, we might be carbon neutral already.”

When diesel was first introduced to boats in the Maldives in the 1970s, law required that sails be kept on boats, said Rilwan. Not only was this method energy efficient, it also had cultural value.

“The sail wasn’t just carbon-neutral, it was a cultural tradition. We also used to have sailing competitions as part of our tradition. But now the sails are no longer required, although you’d think they would be a good idea for a tourist destination like the Maldives.”

Rilwan said the Ministry for Human Resources and Sports last year supported a “not so carbon friendly” motorcycle competition last year, allegedly on Hulhumale.

In January 2010, the Maldives joined 137 countries in signing the Copenhagen Accord declaring their intention to go carbon neutral by 2020. The document is not legally binding but it recognises climate change as a leading issue worldwide.

A government official said the Maldives has since focused on decarbonising the electricity sector, which accounts for over 31 percent of industrial project expenses.

Decarbonising the Maldives over the next 10 years is expected to cost the Maldives US$3-5 million.

Earlier this week, the Maldives signed the Renewable Energy through Feed-In Tariff.

The tariff is expected to reduce electricity costs by promoting a shift from oil fuel to renewable energy sources.

Rilwan praised the government’s “political will and efforts to negotiate” renewable energy in the Maldives. But he said investment in renewable energy was expensive, and that the Maldives lacks expertise.

REIO’s crowdsourcing initiative aims to improve that shortfall.

“While we are working now on the initial production planning and development we will also be looking to use local and international expertise to develop storage capacity,” said Minister for Economic Development Mahmoud Razee.

The initial plan, which is up for debate on an on-line forum, does not account for night time energy and energy storage due to its high cost. A government official said today that limiting use of solar energy to the daytime would still reduce costs significantly. Meanwhile, storage costs are expected to drop to an affordable rate in the next five to ten years.

The official added that plans addressing land transport vehicles’ energy emissions will be announced in the coming months. He noted that not only are electricity-based motorcycles and cars affordable, but Male’s small size negates the concern of going too far from a recharge station.

Although water transport energy reductions have not yet been addressed at the government level, Renewable Energy Maldives (REM) Director Hudah Ahmed said today that the company will soon be testing one of the first hybrid dhonis.

“Solar power is a viable option for the Maldives,” said Ahmed. “But we always say that energy efficiency comes before renewable energy. Consider how to do the best with what you have and what you need before you try to reinvent the system with a whole new resource.”

The REM hybrid dhoni uses a converter, and could reduce diesel consumption by 30 percent. Ahmed said the big idea is to replace current ferries and fishing boats with hybrid dhonis.

Ahmed suggested the Maldives investigate ocean thermal energy conversation (OTEC), a method of generating energy from the temperature differences between deep and shallow waters. “It isn’t commercial yet, but REM says it shouldn’t be ruled out. I think there are some areas in this country where OTEC could be useful,” said Ahmed.


Comment: Where do you draw the line?

Where does one draw the line?

In a referendum held on August 18, 2007, 60 percent of the people of the Maldives overwhelmingly decided on a Presidential system of government.

In 2008 a new Constitution came into force, taking into consideration the doctrine of the separation of powers and incorporating the ideas of checks and balances.

The executive branch separated from the legislative, and the judiciary began working independently. The Constitution is clear about the extent of the powers of each entity, the demarcations clearly drawn.

The powers and duties of the President, elected directly by the people, are clearly defined by the Constitution. There is a clear demarcation line drawn between the two spheres of influence: the legislative branch and the executive. It allows the separate powers to act independently while understanding the need for co-operation between these entities.

The legislature, staffed by members directly elected by the people, is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend and repeal laws. Article 5 of the Constitution vests the Peoples’ Majlis with all the power to enact necessary legislation.

In addition, the legislature has the authority to pass bills related to the lowering or raising of taxes, adopting the national budget and related money bills.

The executive branch is unipersonal, meaning that all executive power lies with the President. Members of the Cabinet are appointed by the President, held legally responsible, and are expected to implement the policies of the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of the government. It is the President’s prerogative under the Presidential system to direct members of the Cabinet, the military or any officer or employees of the executive branch.

The President’s power, however, does not extend into the domain of the judiciary: he generally has no power to dismiss or pass orders to judges.

The fact that a Presidential system seperates the executive from the legislature is sometimes held up as an advantage, in that each branch may scrutinize the actions of the other.

The question we are grappling with here is whether the legislature has the power under the Constitution to announce for applicants, interview, shortlist and hire members into State institutions.

While the Presidential system empowers legislative approval of Presidential nominations to the Cabinet as well as various other government posts such as judges and members of independent commissions, it does not allow the legislature to encroach into this sphere of influence that is specifically the domain of executive power.

A clear line has to be drawn between nomination and appointment of members of state institutions within the executive domain and approval and accountability which is the prerogative of the legislature.

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