Climate Change Trust Fund receives money for new projects

The Maldives government and its international partners today announced the launch of three projects under the World Bank administered Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF).

A total of US$8.5million has been contributed by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the European Union (EU) to the CCTF to assist with these projects.

The CCTF was established in 2010 after the signing of an MOU between the Maldives government, the World Bank Group and the EU with the aim of targeting solid waste management, capacity building for environmental management, and technical assistance for monitoring and managing key natural assets.

The projects announced today included the Ari Atoll Solid Waste Management Pilot (AASWM) and a project called Wetlands Conservation and Coral Reef Monitoring for Adaptation to Climate Change (WCCM).

AASWM will assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and damage done to the local marine environment in the western atoll.

“The success of the pilot project is expected to bring about the participation of the remaining inhabited islands of Ari Atoll, particularly those where IWMCs were built with prior funding from EU”, said Bernard Savage, EU’s Ambassador to the Maldives.

Australia’s new High Commissioner to the Maldives, Robyn Mudie described the benefits of the WCCM scheme.

“Sustaining wetlands and coral reefs is a cost-effective strategy for climate change adaptation with strong benefits for disaster mitigation, ecosystem conservation and economic growth”, she said.

The WCCM will work with resorts in North and South Male’ atolls to demonstrate the way in which monitoring techniques can help in targeting conservation efforts.

“The WCCM being implemented in Fuvahmulah of Gnaviyani Atoll, Hithadhoo of Addu Atoll and Alif Alif Ukulhas Island in North Ari Atoll will benefit its 22,000 inhabitants enabling the local governments to implement a clear strategy for wetland management, drainage management, ecotourism and community rainwater harvesting,” read today’s joint press release.

“These three projects will be particularly useful in the context of the decentralized governance framework and public private partnerships. Once piloted and proven successful, the models could be scaled-up and replicated across the country,” it added.

The final project announced today will attempt to provide an annual 300MWh of renewable energy via solar voltaic systems and energy efficiency measures for the people of Thinadhoo Island in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.

“Independence from carbon-based fuels, if achieved through energy efficiency improvements and use of indigenous renewable energy resources has important energy security co-benefits as it will avoid fossil fuel imports that cost Maldives 20 percent of its GDP, annually”, said Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Environment and Energy.

The Maldives’ most ambitious renewable energy project, the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP), fell through after political instability in the country deterred potential investors.

Climate change governance

The World Bank’s original objectives for the trust fund’s programme included strengthening government leadership and increasing the country’s institutional capacity to deal with climate change issues.

Following the announcement of these projects, local civil society group Transparency Maldives (TM) told Minivan News of its concerns regarding the CCTF financing agreement.

“We welcome the utilisation of the funds from the CCTF for the benefit of the people, but we note that the Financing Agreement of CCTF was signed in January 2011 and, as the Auditor General’s report for 2011 has identified, there are considerable delays as well as waste involved in CCTF,” a spokesperson said.

“This points to weaknesses in climate governance in the Maldives,” they added. “At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the constant change of institutions or creation of new institutions or inaction of existing ones. This increases risks of corruption.”

The spokesperson expressed their concerns that the civil society and the public were not more involved in the conception and planning of climate change projects.

TM established the Climate Change Integrity Project (CGIP) last year in order to help ensure that financing for climate change projects is transparent, equitable, and free from corruption.

“These three projects will be particularly useful in the context of the decentralized governance framework and public private partnerships. Once piloted and proven successful, the models could be scaled-up and replicated across the country,” said today’s EU, World Bank and AusAID press release.

The current government has been criticised by members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for what it views as attempts to undo the decentralisation measures taken during its time in office

Following the decision last April to re-centralise health and utility service, party member Aminath Shauna said that it was impossible to effectively implement country-wide services from the capital.

“They want to re-establish a relationship of dependency between the islands and Malé. Their intent in this is to consolidate power,” said Shauna.

Similarly, party’s spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor last month stated his belief that public-private partnerships (PPP) initiated under the MDP government have been suspended “in the interest of preserving the status and wealth of few local wealthy businessmen.”


Climate change trust fund money not delayed, says surprised EU

The European Union has claimed that funds allocated to the Maldives by the EU for climate change adaptation earlier this month have not been delayed, following reports in newspaper Miadhu Daily.

Miadhu reported that the Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed, requested the €6.5 million from the EU directly without going through the proper channels of communication, slowing the process.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 6 April between the Maldivian government, the EU and the World Bank. The money will be allocated to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes, which are to be proposed by the government and managed by the World Bank.

Vice President Waheed said the allegations are “part of a smear campaign. It’s come after I spoke out the other day. So it has no basis whatsoever.”

Dr Waheed said the time schedule for the utilisation of the funds, which states that all projects must be submitted by 15 January 2011, shows “we are perfectly on schedule.”

He said he doesn’t “really understand where this is coming from, but I believe it’s a political stunt, played by someone in this country to basically discredit me. You can ask the EU representative in Sri Lanka.”

The Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives stated today that “the delegation is pleased to confirm that the EU has contributed EUR 6.5 million (approximately US$8.8 million) to the multi-donor Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund.”

They noted arrangements for the programme include a Climate Change Advisory Council, of which Vice President Waheed is the chair, which will “provide strategic direction to the climate change activities under the Trust Fund ensuring that activities are aligned with the government’s Strategic Action Plan and climate change priorities.”

There will also be a Technical Committee composed of technical experts of the government, private sector and leading civil society organisations. This second committee will be responsible for “reviewing and recommending technically well-sound project proposals for financing and monitoring the overall progress of the programme.”

Programme Manager for the trust fund at the EU’s High Commission to the Maldives and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Harshini Halangote, told Minivan News “we have already committed this money” and assured the trust fund has been made available to the government.

“The government is solely responsible for proposing to the World Bank on the government’s priorities,” she said, noting the money is “solely for climate change purposes.”

She said the government’s proposals will then be looked into by the World Bank and the EU for approval.

Halangote added the Vice President would “not request for it personally,” noting there is a governance structure which has been passed and looked at by the government which outlines the proper channels of communication.

“Minister of Finance Ali Hashim, who signed the MoU, is aware they do have the money,” she said.

Halangote added “the project can run as fast as they want it to,” and said there was no truth in the allegations that the funds had been delayed.

Delhi-based Environmental Specialist for the trust fund, Priti Kumar, said “there has been no delay. When the World Bank starts a long-term project like this, you can’t expect a trust fund to be allocated within 21 days [since the signing of the MoU].”

She said the EU and World Bank “want the money to be utilised in a very useful manner” which is not influenced by politics.

She noted the Climate Change Advisory Council “is working quite well” and projects are being developed already.

She added although “everything is on track,” it will take “a few months for everything to be streamlined” as the trust fund involves a large sum of money.

Deputy Minister for Environment, Dr Mohamed Shareef, said the money “is available” and the ministry has “proposed several projects.”

He said the money “had been delayed for a bit, but international bureaucracy also takes its time.”

Dr Shareef said the ministry hopes there will be some projects starting by the end of this year and said he had been told “there will be more funds available” in addition to the original €6.5 million.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Ahmed Assad, said he is “not aware of any [delays]” and has not been “informed of any issues” regarding the trust fund.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, told Minivan News yesterday that the funds had been “delayed for too long,” but today said he no longer wished to give details on the matter.


EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action departs Maldives

Before her departure yesterday, European Union’s first Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, said doubters of climate change should come to the Maldives to see the true effects of climate change.

“It is very different to come to a place like here to see with your own eyes what climate change is all about,” she said.

She said it was necessary to find ways to improve sustainable development, and said President Mohamed Nasheed is “one of the leading voices” in the efforts to raise awareness on climate change.

President Nasheed said their visit to Sh. Komandoo was “very fruitful” and him and Hedegaard discussed issues of climate change on vulnerable countries like the Maldives.


EU donates EUR 6.5 million to Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund

The European Union has contributed EU€6.5 million (US$8.8 million) to the newly created Climate Change Trust Fund which aims to help the government of the Maldives in its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2020.

Minister of Finance Ali Hashim signed the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the Maldivian government at a “little ceremony” held at the President’s Office this morning.

World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Naoko Ishii, signed on behalf of the World Bank, and Ambassador of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Bernard Savage, on behalf of the EU.

The ceremony was attended by President Mohamed Nasheed, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem, Minister of Health and Family Dr Aminath Jameel, members of the Danish delegation and other senior members of government.

Climate change trust fund

The trust fund will be administered by the World Bank for a period of three and a half years, with the majority of resources being used by the government to conduct their projects relating to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The World Bank will offer security for donors and hopes more countries will add to the fund to help the Maldives break its dependency on fossil fuels.

The government intends to use the trust fund to “strengthen knowledge and leadership” in the government, build “adaptive capacity” through pilot programmes, develop renewable energy through low-carbon options and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and “improve policy and institutional capacities” in both public and private sectors to deal with adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

The trust fund will also be used to strengthen coastal protection, biodiversity conservation, tourism, fisheries industry, solid waste management and energy solution.

A Climate Change Advisory Council will be established and will include members from the government and will “provide strategic direction to the climate change activities under the trust fund.”

There will also be a Technical Committee composed of experts from the government, private sector and civil society. This committee will be responsible for reviewing and recommending project proposals for financing and monitoring the progress of the trust fund programme.

EU on climate change and the Copenhagen Accord

The European Union is the first to donate to the Maldives’ Climate Change Trust Fund and is paving the way for other countries and financial institutions to do the same.

president + connie
President Nasheed and Connie Hedegaard

After the last international climate change summit in Copenhagen last year, President Nasheed proved himself to be an influential figure in the fight against climate change.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the Maldives has the 174th largest population in the world out of 237 countries, but despite its small population and current status as a Least Developed Country (LDC), it has shown unmatched initiative in combating climate change.

Conversely, China and India, who are the two largest populations in the world and according to the New York Times are “among the largest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world,” had not agreed to join the Copenhagen Accord until March 2010.

President Nasheed’s urge to “move into the Green Age” has made the Maldives a global voice on the issue.

The creation of the trust fund coincides with the EU’s newly appointed Commissioner of Climate Action, Danish national Connie Hedegaard, who is in the Maldives for two days to see the impacts of climate change in the country and oversee climate change adaptation programmes.

Hedegaard is currently running the EU’s climate change policy and will be departing for India after her visit to the Maldives.

Signing ceremony

Minister Hashim said this MoU showed the government is “making progress” on climate change adaptation, and noted that this was one of the promises the government made before they came to power and one of the “key elements…that we will deliver to the people.”

Ambassador Savage noted he was the very first European commissioner to visit the Maldives and found it “very appropriate” that he is the commissioner in charge for climate change action, “the very subject of the MoU that were are signing here today.”

He said climate change mitigation “demands urgent, cooperative and shared responsibility” and the “EU welcomes the opportunity to assist the government of the Maldives” to fulfil their pledge of carbon neutrality.

“The EU is and has always been a real friend of the Maldives,” Savage said, “so this MoU is a further indication of that friendship and also a recognition by the EU of the priorities set for the country’s development as it moves through this democratic change and into the future.”

He said the EU “recognises, shares and participates in the priorities set by the government of the Maldives and we wish to further cement that partnership as we move forward.”

Savage added that signing the MoU “in such distinguished company” showed the importance of climate change to both the Maldives and the EU.

Naoko Ishii said the World Bank thought the government’s bid to be carbon-neutral by 2020 was “a very ambitious goal but it’s not impossible to achieve.”

She said the World Bank was inspired by the government’s way of dealing with this challenge and hoped the trust fund “will really help you achieve your vision.”

“It’s crucial for Maldives to build a climate resilient economy and society through adaptation,” she said.

Ishii said “this could be a real opportunity for other donors to come in and help the government,” and was “so pleased to see there is an actual instrument to realise [the] dream [of carbon neutrality].”