The Maldivian government has hit back at allegations of “climate bribery” in international media this week, disputing claims that it pushed for US$50 million assistance from the US government in exchange for uneqivocally backing the Copenhagen Accord.
A leaked US diplomatic cable detailing an exchange between the Maldives Ambassador to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed and US Deputy Climate Change Envoy Jonathan Pershing on February 23, 2010, was described as a “diplomatic dance” by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately US$50m. Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance,” the Guardian quoted from the cable.
In response to growing criticism – including several questions on the subject directed at President Mohamed Nasheed during his appearance on BBC Hardtalk, the Maldivian government today released several diplomatic documents it claimed “show that the country pledged its support to the Copenhagen Accord unilaterally and without reservations on 19 December 2009, just hours after the climate change negotiations concluded in the Danish capital.”
In a letter dated December 19, 2009, Dr Shaheed writes to the Executive Secretary for the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) to “confirm that the Maldives supports and associates itself with the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009.”
In a second letter, dated January 29, 2010, Dr Shaheed again writes to the Executive Secretary stating that “the Maldives’ submission of its mitigation actions is voluntary and unconditional. However we do wish to state, on the record, that the Maldives will be seeking international support for implementation, and that, at such a tie as we do, we are happy for our request to be recorded in the registry and for our mitigation actions to be internationally measured, reported and verified.”
In a statement released yesterday, Dr Shaheed dismissed as “smear” allegations “by some parties” that the Maldives had said it would only sign the Copenhagen Accord in exchange for US$50 million in assistance, and that the release of the letters was “in the interests of full disclosure” to prove that the Maldives supported the Copenhagen Accord on its own merits.
“In fact the Maldives was actively lobbying other parties, including the US, to associate with the Accord. Not the other way around,” Dr Shaheed said. “President Nasheed spent many hours late at night in the final Heads of State meeting which negotiated the Copenhagen Accord, working with other leaders to try to avoid a total collapse of the negotiations and to ensure that the interests of small island and vulnerable countries were protected.
“Having been so intimately involved in negotiating the document, it was natural that the Maldives signed up to the Accord immediately after the Copenhagen negotiations ended.”
The Maldives had led a “diplomatic offensive” to urge other countries to sign the Accord, Dr Shaheed noted. “To suggest, therefore, that the US somehow paid-off the Maldives to support the Accord defies all logic.”
“Some people are trying to spin this non-story into a scandal in order to undermine the progressive voices of small island states such as the Maldives,” he added.
“We are seeking to play a bridging role between rich and poor nations in the interests of getting a deal that will save our countries from a watery grave. But not everyone supports this effort.”