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

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called upon leaders of developed nations to allow small island states to lead the world in efforts to combat climate change.

“We say to the leaders of the emitting countries, if you are not ready to lead the world on climate change, then give us the opportunity,” Gayoom appealed in a statement delivered at the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa on Monday (September 1).

“SIDS are ready to lead. Don’t stand in our way.”

Despite challenges posed by the small size of SIDS, Gayoom said “size alone does not determine our destiny.”

“With the right policies and right choices we can become our own masters who will shape our future,” he said.

“To do that we need to establish partnerships; meaningful partnerships and enduring partnerships. Partnerships that are defined not by more aid, but by more opportunities. Opportunities that small states could seize to help themselves and to live their dreams.”

The former president is representing the Maldives at the four-day conference as a special envoy of President Abdulla Yameen along with Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim.

The objectives of the conference includeidentifying new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and means of addressing them” and “identifying priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda.”

No progress

Despite “numerous pledges” at UN conferences where “ambitious action plans” were adopted, Gayoom noted that there was “very little to show in terms of real progress.”

“Global CO2 emissions continue unabated. Our fragile ecosystems face increasing threats. Sustainable and innovative solutions we initiate remain unrealised because of lack of international support,” he said.

“It is deeply disappointing to the Maldives, and to the people of all small island developing states to observe the lack of action, particularly by the industrialised economies.”

The objective of SIDS as a separate category was “to help small states in coping with vulnerability,” he added, as well as to coordinate policy decisions “instead of defining these states in terms of what they are not.”

Climate change should be the “core issue of concern” for both SIDS and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Gayoom said.

While the Maldives was considered a beautiful and exotic tourist destination, Gayoom said the country was threatened by rising sea temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, coral bleaching, increased salination of fresh water, accelerated beach erosion, and erratic migration of fish stocks.

The Maldives along with other SIDS have “consistently called for genuine action for climate change, to not bury it in the political manoeuvring that is a reality of today’s international diplomacy, to not wait until it is too late,” he said.

Despite vulnerability of small states, Gayoom said SIDS were also “valuable contributors in proposing common solutions to common problems.”

In the past four decades, the Maldives has shown that small states are both viable and “have extraordinary ability to survive and even thrive in the turbulent global political arena.”

He referred to the Maldives drawing international attention to sea level rise and security threats for small states in 1987.

Gayoom suggested that the declaration of the conference – the ‘Samoa Pathway’ – could “change the course of history in climate change and sustainable development negotiations.”

The declaration could help small states build resilience and develop economies driven by innovation and new technologies, he continued, which would “encourage free enterprise and individual initiative.”

Following today’s session of the conference, Gayoom tweeted,


Prospect of “radicalised, authoritarian” Maldives threatens all nations: former president Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has spoken of the close relationship between climate change, human rights, and democracy during separate addresses to the Danish parliament and the University of Copenhagen this week.

Discussing concerns over political instability in the Maldives that have been raised by NGOs such as Amnesty Intentional since President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power last year, Nasheed accused the current government of reversing “hard won freedoms” and awarding “Islamic extremists” with cabinet positions.

He also claimed that the prospect of the Maldives becoming a “radicalised, authoritarian stronghold” would have negative connotations well beyond the country’s borders.

“In many ways, [extremists] set the tone of Government communications and they are busy trying to indoctrinate the people with a misguided version of Islam,” Nasheed said.

The office of President Waheed – who entered into office through a controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012 – today dismissed Nasheed allegations that Islamic extremists were serving in the government.

“I urge Mr Nasheed to stop spreading lies to promote his political agenda.  I call on him to engage professionally,” President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said via SMS today.

Senior government figures have earlier this year criticised some of the recent findings published about the Maldives by Amnesty International, accusing the group of publishing reports without conducting research.

During his visit to the Danish capital, Nasheed also met with current and former Danish Ministers, high-level officials, supporters, as well as gave an interview to local tv news show DR2 Dagen.

Nasheed, who is a globally recognised high-profile advocate for climate justice, expounded on how he believed environmental issues, human rights, and political stability are increasingly intertwined.

“The fight against climate change is a human rights issue and the way we respond to it will shape not just our environment, but also geopolitical reality – for generations to come,” he stated while speaking at the University of Copenhagen yesterday (April 16).

“Bad energy policy is not just polluting our planet, it is polluting our politics, warping international relations.”

“New balance of power”

Nasheed gave a lecture to the University of Copenhagen highlighting the “corrupting influence of fossil fuels” on energy politics and how this has clashed with the newly-founded Maldivian democracy.

“The politics of energy is polluting international relations, just as it pollutes the air, casting a shadow over much of the world and holding back clean energy,” he stated.

“It is the invisible force holding nations in thrall to dictators, causing conflicts and repressing human rights, a suffocating inertia that holds back democracy and development.”

Nasheed addressed how “the fight for fossil fuel resources has shaped the world” for over a century, but now “the time has come for a reformation in energy politics; one that values human rights above mineral rights.”

While fossil fuels have “driven companies to corruption, governments to repression, and nations to war, the new resources – solar, wind, waves – are much more widely distributed…there are no ‘resource fields’ to fight over.”

Clean energy is about a significant shift in the established geopolitical order, a shuffling of the deck in the great game, not just about rewiring the world economy, Nasheed explained.

“Carbon emissions”

“If we turn our backs on corrupting influence of fossil fuels, if we reject the polluting in pursuit of the beautiful, we can protect the world around us. We can deliver sustainable economic growth. And we can do so whilst putting development and democracy first,” he stated.

“For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, it is now technologically, economically and politically feasible for people to get their energy sustainably.

Nasheed said it was important that climate change not be underplayed as “some abstract risk,” claiming that the lives and freedoms of people all over the world were threatened if no action was taken to address environmental concerns meaningfully.

“I know it is possible, because we had a plan to do it in the Maldives. A fully costed plan, approved by the World Bank, to go carbon neutral. The only reason we didn’t was because we were rudely interrupted by a coup!” Nasheed exclaimed.

“Radicalised, authoritarian stronghold”

Nasheed also gave a speech to the Danish Parliament that reiterated similar environmental themes, but with an emphasis on the Maldives’ 2008 democratic transition.

A year prior to the Copenhagen Accords – the first time that big emitters from the developed and the developing world all agreed to cut carbon emissions – the Maldives had transitioned from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year authoritarian rule to democracy, Nasheed explained.

“Positive changes such as ‘Basic freedoms’ – freedoms which been repressed for generations – began to take hold,” said Nasheed.

“The Maldives was being hailed by NGOs as a model of liberal, Islamic democracy,” he added.

Nasheed provided the Danish parliament with a brief narrative account of the police and military mutiny on February 7, 2012, which he alleged was controlled by “Gayoom, and his allies, alongside Islamic extremists keen to re-establish the old order.”

“[Gayoom’s] former dictatorship organised the coup because they could see the edifice of their economic and political power crumbling,” he explained. “It was crumbling because Maldivians had rejected authoritarianism, rejected feudalism and largely rejected Islamic extremism.”

Nasheed also added that the prospect of the Maldives becoming a “radicalised, authoritarian stronghold” was a threat for many people.

“It is a threat to the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who holiday there every year. It is a threat to neighbouring democracies, such as India.  And it is a threat to the stability of the wider Indian Ocean, through which 40% of world trade passes,” he said.

“A democratic Maldives is not only your friend; it is also the best guarantor of your interests,” he emphasised.

Free and fair elections

Domestically, Nasheed is presently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

However, Nasheed has maintained that the trial, presently on hold pending a High Court decision on the legitimacy of judges appointed to hear the former president’s case, is politically motivated to try and prevent free and fair elections from occurring this September.

He highlighted recent conclusions of both local and international experts into the present status of the country’s judiciary to support his claims.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur says the court is bias and politicised. This view is shared by Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee,” he said.


Scouts lead Earth Hour events, Environment Ministry “facilitates”

Maldivian civil society is holding Earth Hour events today (March 23) to highlight the urgent need to take action against climate change and care for the environment, while the Ministry of Environment and Energy “facilitates”.

Earth Hour is the “single largest mass participation event in the world” aiming to mobilise people to take action on climate change by switching off their lights for one hour as a “massive show of concern for the environment”, according to the event’s website.

Earth Hour Maldives aims to “obtain the full cooperation of the community, non-government organizations, companies, tourist resorts, government ministries and agencies and the school community, to effectively make Earth Hour Maldives a success and to demonstrate to the world where the Maldives stands in the battle between Earth and Global Warming,” the site states.

The Scout Association of the Maldives has taken the lead organising Earth Hour events, particularly in the capital Male’, since the Maldives began participating five years ago.

“The WWF and Earth Hour Global event hosts prefer associations organise events, focus on youth involvement, and receive support from the government,” Earth Hour Maldives Marketing Manager Mujahid Abdulla told Minivan News.

“The Environment Ministry is making policies, such as the vehicle ban from 7:30 to 10:30 tonight.

“The presidential palace will be the first place to have its lights switched off, as well as the ‘front line’ of Male’. We expect 40 to 50 percent of buildings to shut down their lights,” according to Abdullah.

The Environment Ministry’s Earth Hour media focal point, Mohamed Mushaaid, explained to Minivan News that all government buildings have been requested to shut their lights off for the designated ‘earth hour’ between 8:30 and 9:30 pm, however compliance is voluntary.

“Earth Hour is organized by the Scout Association of the Maldives, while the Environment Ministry is facilitating the event by providing resources, coordinating help from other government ministries, and providing technical help.

“We are strongly suggesting island councils participate, but it’s not mandated,” stated Mushaaid.

He further explained that scouts have been going ‘door to door’ raising awareness and cooperation for ‘lights off’, while advertisements and announcements have been made on ‘variety shows’ providing information about the event and advertising people to avoid energy usage during the designated earth hour.

Updates of energy savings in ‘real time’ will be given on local television.

A vehicle ban will be implemented in Male’ from 7:30pm to 10:30pm, which the Environment Ministry arranged in conjunction with the scout association, Transportation Ministry and Male’ City Council, according to Mushaaid.

“It’s for the benefit of the public, activities will be taking place on the streets for people to join and have fun,” he stated.

“Plus, it will be difficult to capture the picture of Male’ from Funadhoo [island] during Earth Hour with vehicle lights,” Mushaaid added.

Funadhoo is a small island adjacent to the capital of Male’ where the Maldives’ State Trading Organisation (STO) operates its fuel and lubricants department, housing 15544 tons of diesel and 600 tons of kerosene.

Collaborating partners

Abdullah stated that activities have been organised nationwide, with larger events to be held on Kulhudhoofushi island in Haa Dhaal Atoll, Lhaviyani Atoll, Fuvahmulah Island, Addu City, other small islands as well as by resorts. Events in Male’ include an awareness walk, traditional music and activities.

A wide range of institutions are collaborating to implement Earth Hour activities. The Maldives Girl Guide Association, the Maldives Youth Climate Network (MYCN), and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are providing organisational and voluntary help. Supporting partner institutions include the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the State Electric Company Limited (STELCO), the Police Services, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), as well as local media outlets.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is facing criticism for publicly announcing the dissolution of nearly 1300 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – 70 percent of organisations nationwide – without notification or supportive mechanisms.

According to STELCO data, Earth Hour events in 2012 saved 1590.5 kilowatt hours of energy, 418.55 liters of fuel, and carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 1.1 tonnes within an hour, as stated in the official Earth Hour Maldives report.

Earth Hour is organized globally in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with millions of people worldwide, from 152 countries and territories, including 7001 cities and towns, participating in 2012.

Government-led environmental conservation

President Waheed Hassan Manik’s government pledged to ensure his government remained outspoken internationally in regards to the plight small nations faced from the potentially destructive impacts of climate change.

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.

However, private companies and international actors are leading renewable energy implementation in the Maldives while the government “prepares” for various solar power projects.

Since early 2012, the Maldivian government has overseen the initial stages of a few new renewable energy projects.

Waheed launched the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Baa Atoll Conservation Fund in early 2012.

Later that year, a marine biologist working in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has reported the discovery of the remains of a baby shark and endangered sea turtle barbecue on the uninhabited island of Funadhoo, one of the country’s 14 priority nesting beaches legally protected under Maldivian law.

Meanwhile, waste management remains a national human and environmental health dilemma. Establishing waste management systems on the islands has been an ongoing struggle.

Most islands have waste areas that vary in quality and have no means of processing or removing trash from the garbage areas.

“Thilafushi is not what we want. The current conditions there pose serious health and safety threats to Bangladeshi workers living there and those toxins spread to Male’ and Villingili as well,” Ahmed Nizam, Solid Waste Management Coordinator for the Environment Ministry previously told Minivan News.

Speaking to the Conde Nast Traveler publication in 2012 to promote “The Island President” film documentary, former President Mohamed Nasheed expressed hope that the country would continue to work towards becoming carbon neutral, but he also challenged the legitimacy of Waheed’s government.

“We were making real progress. I hope the government will continue our policies. But you can’t have good policies without democracy. And you won’t address the climate change crisis without good policies,” Nasheed told journalist Dorinda Elliott.

“All democratic movements must talk about both climate change and human rights.”


Renewable energy prices posed with high potential

The cabinet has set prices for government-owned utilities companies to purchase renewable energy as part of an investment scheme to bring the Maldives closer to its carbon neutral goal.

“We think renewable energy has a lot of potential, it is why we are in the business. We think this is where things should be going,” said Renewable Energy (REM) Director Hudha Ahmed. Noting that diesel rates are currently higher than projected solar energy rates, she said solar energy is a more reliable source long-term.

According to the Cabinet’s decision, State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) can buy a unit for Rf3.42. South Central Utilities Limited will be charged the highest rate per unit (Rf5.39), and Upper North Utilities Limited can buy a unit for Rf4.44. Units are available to Northern Utilities Limited for Rf4.40, Central Utilities Limited for Rf3.97, and Southern Utilities Limited for Rf3.94.

The Maldives currently aims to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent using solar power. Currently, no company is carrying out a commercial renewable energy project in the Maldives.

STELCO, which just received the rates and is awaiting conditions from the Ministry of Housing and Environment, said there are plans to provide renewable energy locally.

“We have some projects which are being planned, mostly in solar and wind. One solar project is expected to be commissioned in a few weeks,” said STELCO Chief Technology Officer Mohamed Zaid.

Since signing the Copenhagen Accord in January 2010 the Maldives has focused on decarbonising the electricity sector, which accounts for over 31 percent of industrial project expenses.

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

The rates approved by the Cabinet were researched and recommended by Maldives Energy Authority. Deputy Director Ajwad Musthafa said the rates were calculated according to fuel prices in each region and differences in fuel efficiency.

“The amounts we set were about 10 percent cheaper than they currently are in diesel,” Musthafa said.

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

Consumers won’t be affected by the plan, which currently targets investors only and is likely to be lucrative, he added.

“As it stands now, a person can put a solar panel in his home and send the power to a grid. Having invested in energy production, that person can expect a six to seven year payback period before making a profit, which are expected to grow significantly with time. Currently, there is no mechanism in place between the investor and the utility company, but I believe it is being developed,” said Musthafa.

He observed that the system would be especially attractive to people in the Upper South and South Central regions, “where energy prices and feed-in tariffs are higher.”

In September, the Maldives signed the Renewable Energy through Feed-In Tariff in an effort to reduce electricity costs by promoting a shift from oil fuel to renewable energy sources.

“The existing system is fairly inefficient in these areas,” he said. “About fourteen years back the government was charging an Rf3.5 flat rate for energy. We got complaints from investors, so now we are trying to make it more exciting for investment.”

Earlier this month the Maldivian government solicited bids from solar power companies to power 29 islands, which are facing power generation difficulties. Many small islands have small power stations, which are expensive and yield disproportionate returns.

As fuel prices increase, Musthafa explained, so will the feed-in tariff, and the overall price of diesel is unlike to drop in coming years. By comparison, locally-produced solar would be a valuable option.

Musthafa said a buyer’s mechanism was being developed and would be implemented in due time. “Right now, we want to create a market that offers transparent, confident investments,” he said, adding that foreigners are expected to play an important role.

“Foreign investors will only have to sign a power purchase agreement. Nothing has to be taken from the government’s side,” he said. Local companies are also expected to benefit from external support provided by foreign investors.

Past the investment phase, the solar plan includes capacity development, training and awareness programs on renewable energy, and methods to make the investment more affordable, including concessional loans.

“Our hope is that by early next year we will have the proper institutional set up to make this happen,” Musthafa said.


Previously, this article stated, “As it stands now, a person can put a solar panel in his home and send the power to a grid…Currently, there is no mechanism in place between the investor and the utility company, but I believe it is being developed.”

It should have read, “As it stands now, a person can install a solar panel in his home and sell the power to a grid…We have already established a set of technical guidelines and application procedures for Solar PV installations. Additional regulations are being developed.”


President says Maldives must become carbon neutral at keynote address in London

President Mohamed Nasheed has said the Maldivian people are directly affected by climate change, and steps should be taken to achieve carbon neutrality.

In his keynote address at a London dinner hosted by the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice (MRFCJ), the President noted that the Maldives sat just two metres above sea level. He said that the low elevation makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami.

Nasheed also noted that over 70 Maldive islands have contaminated water supplies due to sea salt intrusion, and supplying desalination systems to all islands has doubled state expenditures.

Nasheed advocated for a deeper understanding of the climate, and urged stronger preventative measures against climate change.

Reducing carbon emissions was one key solution. Nasheed also urged his audience to develop a legally binding climate agreement.

Nasheed said the Maldives should replace fossil fuel with solar power and other renewable sources of energy as part of its commitment to reaching carbon neutrality.


Germany and Maldives making progress on joint environmental project

Germany and the Maldives are in discussions regarding the development of a joint environmental project, reports the President’s Office.

An appraisal mission from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) is currently in the Maldives and met with President Nasheed yesterday, together with German Ambassador to the Maldives Jens Plötner.

President Nasheed discussed the possibilities of low carbon development with Ambassador Plötner and the GTZ team, and thanked Germany for its commitment to the realisation of such potential in the Maldives, reports the President’s Office.

GTZ, a German federal organisation, is currently in the process of assessing how best to create an administrative framework in the Maldives that would help facilitate low carbon development projects in the country.