Maldivians will survive climate change, says tourism minister

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has urged Maldivians to adapt to the impacts of climate change instead of considering relocation to higher ground abroad.

Maldivians will continue to live on Maldivian soil for the next 500 years, he said, at a festival held to mark the World Environment Day on Saturday.

“Maldives are innovative and always looking for new innovations. We will live here in the Maldives even if we have to reclaim land or live on floating contraptions,” he said.

The Maldivian islands lie just a meter above sea-level.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a 2013 report said global sea-level is rising and predicts accelerated rise for this century.

For high emissions, the IPCC now predicts a global rise by 52-98 cm by the year 2100, which would threaten the survival of coastal cities and island nations such as the Maldives.

Sea-level rise will be accompanied by coastal erosion, surface-flooding and saltwater intrusion into soil and groundwater, scientists have said. Climate change will also bring frequent and severe weather extremes and coral reef die-offs because of ocean warming and acidification.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon in a message on World Environment Day said: “The Maldives continues to take a proactive approach in building resiliency to the adverse impacts of climate change through pursuing a low carbon development strategy.”

President Abdulla Yameen has pledged to explore for oil in the Maldives.

Rubbish Island

In his speech, Adeeb also pledged to allocate a US$6 green tax – to be levied on tourists in November – to tackling waste management on Thilafushi Island, where garbage from Malé and resorts are sent.

“Tourists, who travel via air taxi, have asked if Thilafushi is a volcano, if volcanoes exist in the Maldives. I tell them that is not the case here and that I cannot give further details,” he said.

More than 200,000 tons of industrial and domestic waste were sent to Thilafushi in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to government figures.

While some of the waste is sorted and sent to India, most is simply used as landfill or burned. Campaign groups have highlighted the risks to workers from toxic fumes and the contamination of surrounding lagoons by floating garbage.

The former Maldivian Democratic Party-led government had signed a contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy in 2011 to provide waste management services in and around Male, including establishing a system to generate power from recycling waste.

However, the current government of President Yameen cancelled that deal late last year, having previously sought to renegotiate it on “more mutually beneficial” terms.

Photo: social media 


Comment: The Maldives cannot represent climate leadership with an autocrat at the helm

This article is by former president Mohamed Nasheed’s climate advisor Mark Lynas. It was originally published in The Guardian. Republished with permission. 

Lynas has authored several books on climate change, including Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. 

This week sees governments meeting in Bonn, Germany for the last negotiating session in advance of November’s UN meeting on climate change in Paris – billed as the best chance in a generation for a worldwide treaty to tackle global warming.

The omens are better than for many years. The political landscape was changed dramatically by last November’s China-US emissions deal. With the world’s two biggest emitters covered, other pledges have been arriving thick and fast: the task for Paris will be to forge them into a global agreement with legal force.

The other major issue under discussion in Bonn is finance, in particular how the commitment to providing developing countries $100bn (£65bn) a year by 2020 for climate adaptation and mitigation can be funded. One of the strongest and most morally charged voices in this arena is the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), who are most vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate impacts. But this is where the problems start.

The chair of Aosis is currently the Maldives, a country of hundreds of coral atolls, none of them more than a metre above sea level. The Maldives shot to global attention in 2009, when its charismatic president Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting to raise awareness of his nation’s plight, and laterpledged to make his country the world’s first carbon neutral state.

Nasheed personally took on the might of China and the US in the climactic closed-door heads of state meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. He then defended the deal from the conference floor when other world leaders had already jetted home, salvaging some positives from a process that was otherwise headed towards total collapse. (I was climate adviser to President Nasheed during that time.)

However, the Maldives is no longer represented by Nasheed,who was ousted in a coup in 2012 and later lost a rigged presidential election to the half brother of the former dictator. Nasheed was recently arrested, tried and sentenced to 13 years in prison following a politically-motivated trial Amnesty International decried as a “travesty of justice”. He is currently languishing in an unsanitary jail with highly restricted access to medical care, legal representation or visits from his wife and young children.

The Maldives’ new autocratic leadership has gutted the country’s democratic institutions and imprisoned every political opposition leader. The authoritarian president Abdullah Yameen has ditched the carbon neutral pledge and plans instead to drill for oil in the Maldives’ pristine coral-fringed waters. Yet this is the voice, as chair of Aosis, now supposedly representing the moral force of small island states at the international climate negotiations.

Having some of the most vulnerable countries in the world representated by authoritarian regimes presents the world with a dilemma. Should demands from these countries for billions of dollars’ worth of climate aid be heeded, when minimum standards of good governance are ignored and human rights are trampled?

In the Maldives, Yameen’s ministers have been accused of links with international gangsters and drug-dealers. Corruption is endemic, while journalists have been threatened, beaten and disappeared. Islamic extremism, meanwhile, is thriving, with hundreds of Maldivians reportedly traveling to Syria to join Islamic State.

The problem was recognised by Nasheed when in office. Sharing his concerns over the possible channeling of western climate aid through corrupt governments in developing countries, he said: “The money is rarely spent on what it should be. Even that which isn’t stolen is spent on the wrong thing. The contract is given to a minister’s relative, rather than to a reputable company.”

This is not a call to reduce the amount of aid pledged in Paris: the $100bn target has been agreed and should be met. But there is surely now a strong case for setting up procedures to enforce minimum standards of accountability for countries aiming to draw from these funds. There are plenty of Aosis members and other vulnerable nations that respect democracy, human rights and good governance, from Barbados to Cape Verde to Samoa.

These countries should be first in the queue, while nations like the Maldives that slip backwards into autocracy and corruption should be excluded from accessing climate finance support. In the meantime, Aosis should come to its senses and realise that it is damaging the interests of small island states worldwide to have its collective voice represented by a regime that crushes democracy and imprisons opposition leaders.

Human rights and climate change cannot be traded off against each other. It is because human rights and dignity are accepted as universal values that there is a moral case for climate finance in the first place – to address the injustice of those suffering the worst climate impacts not being those who bear the most responsibility for global warming.

Morality is a double-edged sword – if you behave unjustly yourself you forfeit any claim to moral leadership. That is why the Maldives cannot represent climate leadership while an aspiring dictator remains at the helm.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Foreign Minister calls for greater resilience to climate change impacts

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon has called on the Maldives to build individual and collective resilience to face rising seas and extreme weather events associated with climate change.

In a statement issued on Friday commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Dunya said: “Floods and rising sea levels threaten the loss of our livelihoods, our homes, our cultures and our very existence.”

“The words of scientists that have for years warned of frequent natural disasters due to climate change, are undoubtedly proving to be true.”

The Maldives must take action at home to build resilience, and continue to urge other countries to do their part to combat climate change, Dunya said.

Although the Maldives has urged the international community to reach a strong and legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has begun exploring for oil in the Maldives.

In October, Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee said a research vessel has found hydrocarbon source rock in the Maldives.

December 26 is marked in the Maldives as National Day of Unity to celebrate the collective tsunami relief effort.

“What we saw that day was the true spirit of oneness, our common history and the bonds that bind us together like no other,” Dunya said.

At a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the tsunami on Thursday, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz admitted government negligence in the delays in constructing permanent housing.

Muizz said the government has now completed a majority of the 338 remaining houses for families made homeless by the tsunami. He claimed there are no families living in temporary shelters at present.

The 338 houses include 41 on Thaa Atoll Madifushi, 87 on Gaaf Alif Dhaandhoo, 50 on Gaaf Alif Nilandhoo, 76 on Gaaf Alif Vilingili and 84 on Gaaf Alif Maamendhoo.

Only 51 houses remain unfinished. These include one house on Dhaandhoo, five on Nilandhoo, 12 on Villingili, and 33 on Maamendhoo.

Muizz said the government hopes to complete all houses by the end of 2014.

The housing projects in Thaa and Gaaf Alif atolls were initially commissioned to Maldivian company Vimla and an unnamed foreign company.

The government this year handed over the projects to the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF), state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company, the Maldives Road Development Company, and several local companies.

The government is to give these families a grant of MVR 25,000 to buy furniture as they move into their new homes.

In his speech, Muizz also claimed the opposition had obstructed the construction of the permanent housing by vandalising buildings. He did not provide additional details.

President Yameen at the National Day of Unity function urged Maldivians to control negative emotions such as anger, hatred and envy in order to work towards sustainable unity.

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“We do not want to be in Paris to get perished,” Maldives ambassador tells climate change convention

The Maldives has urged the world to take reach a strong and legally binding climate change agreement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Speaking at the plenary meeting of the 20th Conference of the Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima Ambassador Ahmed Sareer emphasised on the need for a negotiated text in order to arrive at a strong agreement in Paris in 2015.

“We do not want to be in Paris to get perished,” said Sareer.

The Maldives mission to the United Nations reports that Sareer told the meeting that the Maldives, as a small, low-lying island state, is among the most vulnerable and least defensible countries to the projected impacts of climate change.

Touching on the ongoing water crisis in Malé, Sareer said that the situation “is a stark example of the vulnerability of small island developing states like the Maldives that has no natural fresh water sources”.

A fire in the capital’s only desalination plant left 130,000 people without running water last week, requiring international relief efforts to deal with the crisis.

Unusual in the crowded capital, water shortages have become commonplace in the country’s outer atolls – a combination of periods of drought and groundwater contaminated by the 2004 tsunami.

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

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

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

Former President Nasheed – who gained international acclaim for his efforts at the 2009 climate change conference – recently told the International Bar Association (IBA) that he feared Maldivians could become the world’s first climate change refugees.

“When I was elected president, I caused some controversy by saying we would someday have to leave our islands. I was hopeful then that we would be able to change the way our story ends. But I fear it is too late now for the Maldives,” he told the IBA’s showcase session on climate change and human rights.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference – or COP21 – will be held in Paris between November 30 and December 11 next year.

The COP21 organising committee has said that: “By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate.”

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There’s nothing more conservative than conserving the planet, Nasheed tells Huffington Post

“[T]here’s nothing more conservative than conserving the planet, and if you want to deconstruct what conservatism is, that very much maps onto good environment living and issues and policies,” former President Mohamed Nasheed told the Huffington Post.

“I would argue again and again with conservative politicians as well, that if you look into the economics of it, this makes far more sense than what we are doing now. And another very important issue is, we will soon have millions of people on the move because of climate change and as climate refugees.”

Nasheed was interviewed during a trip to the United States where he received the Sylvia Earle Blue Mission award in recognition of his climate change advocacy and efforts to raise public awareness.

“There’s no plan B, even if we wanted to leave people will not leave. We are not only talking about the Maldives, Manhattan is as low as the Maldives. Now, can you see all these people leaving this island? No, I can’t see that. And in my view they would go in for more adaptation measures, so we must be looking at more technology for adaptation.”

Read the full interview here.


Nasheed’s awards brings honour and prestige to Maldives, says MDP

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s awards and international recognition for climate change advocacy brings honour and prestige to the Maldives, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

The opposition leader returned yesterday after a visit to the United States to receive the ‘Sylvia Earle Blue Mission’ award for 2014 at a ceremony in St Petersburg, Florida, on November 6.

Nasheed – also the party’s president – was greeted by throngs of supporters at the jetty in Malé.

The MDP noted in a press statement today that St Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman also presented Nasheed a key to the city at a ceremony in his honour.

Nasheed also addressed students of the Earth Science Faculty of the University of South Florida and gave interviews to several American newspapers and websites such as the Huffington Post during the visit.

The MDP said Nasheed has become a global icon for his advocacy on climate change and global warming, which has brought attention and international repute to the Maldives.

After serving on the jury panel of judges of the Zayed Future Energy at Abu Dhabi in October, Nasheed delivered the keynote address at the International Bar Association ‘annual conference showcase session on climate change and human rights’ in Tokyo last month.


Maldives elected chair of Alliance of Small Island States

The Maldives has been elected as the next Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) during a ministerial meeting in the Seychelles.

“The Maldives spearheaded the efforts to form AOSIS, following the first ever Small States Conference held in the Maldives in November 1989,” explained a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Formed of 39 low-lying coastal and small island countries, the alliance focuses primarily on issues of vulenerability – particularly in reference to the effects of climate change. It functions as a lobby group within the UN system, of which its members make up 20 percent.

Speaking at the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa in September, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – present at the first 1989 AOSIS meeting – called on Alliance of Small Island States to make climate change its “core issue of concern”.

2014 has been made the ‘Year of the Small Island Developing States’ by the UN as an opportunity for the international community to raise awareness of the challenges facings SIDs.


Former President Nasheed to receive ‘Sylvia Earle Blue Mission’ award

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has departed for the United States this morning to accept the ‘Sylvia Earle Blue Mission’ award for 2014 in recognition of his climate change advocacy and efforts to raise public awareness.

According to the office of the former president, Nasheed will be presented the award at a ceremony in St Petersburg, Florida, on November 6. On the following day, the former president will deliver a speech on environment protection.

During the visit, Nasheed will also meet Dr Sylvia Earle, who was the first female chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance – which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish – and currently includes over 90 ocean conservation groups and organisations.


Former environment minister presents scientific paper at Copenhagen conference

Former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam has presented a scientific paper at the ‘Impact 2C’ conference in Copenhagen, Denmark about changes caused to island size by climate change.

According to a press statement from the office of former President Mohamed Nasheed on October 30, Aslam studied changes in size and sea level for 184 islands in Huvadhoo atoll (Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal atolls) from 1969 to 2013.

Aslam found that 43 percent of islands underwent significant changes. While 50 percent shrank in size, 23 percent grew and 27 remained unchanged.

Natural defences of the coral islands in the Maldives were changing due to climate change, Aslam concluded.

Former President Nasheed meanwhile stressed the importance of Maldivians participating in climate change discussions, forums and research projects.