Development and climate change adaption “go hand-in-hand”, says Greenpeace

Rather than establishing a one size fits all-style blueprint for more sustainable economies, the Maldives’ well publicised carbon neutral commitments demonstrate how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive, environmental organisation Greenpeace has said.

Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International, believes that the Maldives can play an iconic role in promoting the potential benefits of adopting alternate energy programmes, rather than detailing how to practically adopt a lower carbon economy.

“The Maldives can become a strong proponent of a paradigm shift in the World Bank and in developing countries whereby it is recognized that fighting climate change and promoting development go hand in hand,” Trio explained.

The claims come as the country has this month found itself elected as a Co-Chair of the World Bank Strategic Climate Fund Governing Committee (SCF), a development the Maldives Environment Ministry believes grants it a much louder voice in outlining international green policy on sustainable energy sources.

The SCF is part of the governing body of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which are used in attempts to finance pilot projects in developing countries that focus on generating cleaner and renewable energy sources as well as other sustainable agricultural policies.

Trio claimed that with the Maldives’ elevated status in the World Bank’s CIF programme, the country can act more as an example of the “bold commitments” that a nation can make on environmental issues rather than existing as a model that can be adopted by other nations looking to go carbon neutral.

In looking specifically at the Maldives being elected as Co-Chair of the SCF, the Greenpeace spokesperson accepted that the country is somewhat limited by its size in the role it can have as an advocate for more sustainable business and lifestyles.

“By coupling both strong words and the need for the big emitting countries in the developed and the developing world to reduce their emissions sharply, with a strong commitment at home, the Maldives has also gained respect,” Trio explained to Minivan News. “However, obviously none of the big emitting countries are looking at the Maldives as an example, as they all claim that their social and economic development cannot be compared to that of a small island state.”

Ultimately, Deputy Environment Minister Minister Mohamed Shareef says the appointment of the Maldives to a co-chair role in the Climate Fund Committee will not directly impact existing carbon neutral aims across the nation.

However, he expects the position to allow the country to have a more active role in outlining global sustainable policy that might better favour national developments.

In terms of national interests, the Maldives is expected to retain its high profile commitments to carbon neutrality, which the Deputy Environment Minister says will be the key to pursuing additional ecological overhauls in relation to waste and conservation.

Aside from the global status afforded by the Maldives’ carbon neutral ambitions, the practical success of energy security and more cost effective fuels afforded by the Maldives’ green ambitions will be essential to fund wider ministry focuses on recycling, conservation and waste management, at least according to the Deputy Environment Minister Mohamed Shareef.

Shareef told Minivan News that although authorities are trying to focus on providing a wide range of programmes relating to conservation and waste management, budgetary restrictions are ensuring sustainable energy is the key environmental focus for the nation.

Despite opening itself up to possible criticism that the Maldivian government is not as committed to commitments like having recycling facilities and even public bins across the country, Shareef believes greener energy is vital to helping bankroll additional environmental commitments.

“At present, about 25 percent of the Maldives revenue is spent on energy due to higher fuel costs,” he says.

In considering the “very high” costs of energy being faced in the country, focusing on more cost efficient supplies of power and fuel is hoped by the Deputy Environment Minister to offset current budget limitations that are claimed to be hindering focusing on recycling and littering that directly impact everyday Maldivians.

Shareef claims that the Environment Ministry is nonetheless working to act on wider sustainability commitments beyond looking to overhaul the nation’s energy supplies.

“We haven’t forgotten [recycling and waste management commitments] and we are working on projects in a number of areas,” he says. “You will increasingly hear more mentions about our energy commitments due to the short deadline – carbon neutrality by 2020 – that has been set.”