Laamu atoll to set benchmark for climate change development, says UNDP

The United Nations in Maldives launched its new project, the ‘Low Emission Climate Resilient Development (LECReD) Programme’ in Fonadhoo, Laamu atoll yesterday (May 18).

Azusa Kubota, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative, said the ambitious programme would set Laamu atoll as a “benchmark” for future climate-smart and strategic development.

Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim echoed the statements of Kubota, stating that the programme would play a pivotal role in shaping the future development of Laamu atoll, paving way for more climate-resilient projects in the social and economic sectors of the atoll.

The 3-year-long initiative seeks to contribute to the existing local development framework by enhancing the capacity to support low-carbon lifestyles, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction in the Maldives.

The US$9.2 million programme will be implemented as a collaborative effort by local organisations, the UNDP, UNICEF, UNOPS, UNFPA, UN WOMEN, the WHO and the FAO.

It is the first joint implementation programme undertaken by the UN in the Maldives, and signals the adoption of a new holistic approach to address localised impacts of climate change in the Maldives, according to the LECReD press statement.

The Government of Denmark, who is funding the project, have a history of supporting the Maldives in climate change awareness and mitigation programmes.

In 2009 Copenhagen supported the Maldives in order that the government could attend the crucial climate change summit, just one day after the former president Nasheed announced that country lacked the funds to participate.

Furthermore, in 2010 Danish ministers announced they would assist with climate mitigation in Maldives during an official visit.

Speaking at a press conference held at the time, officials announced Denmark would fund climate mitigation programs in Kenya, Indonesia and the Maldives as part of its US$40 million ‘fast-track’ climate change initiative.

Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Søren Pind and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Dr Lykke Friis announced they would assist with infrastructure and capacity-building projects in the Maldives.

“In global climate talks there is sometimes the tendency to say ‘If we don’t agree now, we’ll just agree next year.’ But if anyone suffers from that illusion they should come to the Maldives, because here you get an education that action is needed now,” said Dr Friis.

Following the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Minister Thoriq called for a cap on global temperature rise, and pledged to increase renewable energy to 30% in the next 5 years.

“Averting catastrophe is still possible,” he said in response to the panel’s argument that the world was ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate.

After reports of collapsing glaciers leading to a potentially increased rate of sea-level rise were reported last week, local NGOs suggested that the Maldives was “not prepared at all” for the projected consequences.


Averting climate change catastrophe is still possible, says environment minister

Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim has called for a cap on global temperature rise, and pledged to increase renewable energy to 30% in the next 5 years.

“Averting catastrophe is still possible,” said Thoriq in a statement released yesterday (April 14).

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt, and that is why we are calling for a cap of 1.5 degree Celcius.”

Thoriq’s pledges were made in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report entitled ‘Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change’, released on March 31.

The IPCC report contends that the world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. However, it also argues that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be more difficult to manage the higher the levels of warming.

The report confirms that carbon emissions have risen more rapidly during the last decade, and that a rise in our current temperature would make the effects extremely difficult to manage. It further urged leaders to invest in low carbon energy projects in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees celcius.

The statement by Thoriq explains that the Maldives – with its low lying islands vulnerable to a rise in sea levels – has been actively campaigning the impacts of climate change for 27 years.

“We are determined and actively working towards increasing our share of renewable in the electricity production of populated islands by 30% within next 5 years,” stated Thoriq.

“The Maldives is committed to introduce cost effective renewable energy as part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix in our low carbon development.”

The IPCC report prompted calls from Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon for the international community to switch from ” ‘business-as-usual’ mode to ‘action now’ “.

“Let this report be the much needed impetus for this September’s Climate Summit in New York, and let us all put our names in history books for saving the planet for our children, in Paris next year”, said Dunya shortly after the report’s publication.

Policies in progress

In keeping with these statements, the Ministry of Environment had recently revealed plans to set up a climate research institute in the Maldives.

Speaking as the guest of honour at the second forum on climate held in the Maldives, Minister Thoriq said that this forum was an important step in mitigating the risks of climate change that low-lying island states experience, reported local media outlet CNM.

Introduced in the Maldives in July 2012, the Monsoon Forum has taken a multi-hazard approach, integrating issues on forecasts and warning information with concerns regarding geological hazards like earthquakes and tsunamis.

This forum – organised jointly by the Maldives Meteorological Service and the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems – is geared as an opportunity for dialogue between hydro-meteorological scientists, who generate climate information and promote the application of forecasts and warning information for enhanced management of climate change risks.

Thoriq said that these meetings were crucial as different institutions have to anticipate possible impacts and develop a set of potential responses or management strategies to minimise them. He was also reported to have highlighted the importance of having a climate research institute in the Maldives.

In addition, the ministry recently held an international renewable energy investor’s conference, focusing on the development of solar energy, in a bid to transform the Maldives’ energy sector.

Held on March 26, the ministry reported that a total of 78 participants from government organisations, the World Bank, foreign consultants, and investors discussed photovoltaic systems at the conference.

The conference came after the government last week outlined it’s strategic aims for renewable energy in a proposal named ‘Accelerating Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy programme’ (ASPIRE).

Published March 21 2014, this report detailed some of the difficulties faced by the Maldives, as well as future plans to increase the proportion of sustainable energy consumed in the country.

After the publication of the IPCC report, Thoriq stated that there was “no room at all for any hesitancy”.

“Bold and urgent actions are the order of the day. Now is the time for world leaders to show leadership, implement bold and urgent actions and avert future generations from impending danger before it’s too late. Humanity cannot afford further delay.”


Maldives narrowly defeated by India in penalty shootout

The Maldives national team was narrowly beaten by India in the SAFF Cup Final following a nail-biting 3-1 penalty showdown.

The streets of Male were deserted as the match began, with locals cramming teashops and restaurants. Those left on the streets gathered around TVs on street corners brought out by residents, or went to the main action at Lonuziyaaraikolhu where a large screen had been set up under the stars.

Young Maldivians dressed in red to support their team
Young Maldivians dressed in red to support their team

India was kept on the defensive throughout the match and during extra time, holding the score at 0-0 despite numerous close calls and several injured players. Indian goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya weathered a brutal onslaught in the final minutes of the second half as the Maldivians ran rings around the bedraggled Indian defenders. But despite the perpetual pressure the team just couldn’t get the ball past Bhattacharya, who must have felt like he was playing a particularly vindictive game of Dodge Ball.

Tension mounted during the TVM broadcast’s pause for prayer in the first half of extra time, but nothing was scored during the break sparking a nervous sigh of relief from some in the crowd.

Crowds cram a shop trying to glimpse the game
Crowds cram a shop trying to glimpse the game

The audience was on their feet by the time of the penalty shoot-out, excited and nervous in equal measure. Jibon Singh’s opening goal was returned by Fazeel Ibrahim, but Thoriq missed in the second round while India’s Denzil Franco hit the back of the net. Both Nirmal Chettri and Mukhuthar missed in the third, but Subodh Kumar scored in the fourth and Ali Ashfag failed to make up the point, giving the match to India by the narrowest of possible margins.

Disheartened, the crowd gathered in Lonuziyaaraikolhu quickly melted away leaving nearby stallholders equally dispirited.

The few Indians in the crowd cautiously celebrated. “Do you still love my country?” one Maldivian teenager asked a group of spectating foreigners, worriedly, while a convoy of red-decked motorbikes set off to lap Boduthakurufaanu Magu, honking their horns somewhat half-heartedly.

Maldivian women and their children by the bright red sea wall
Maldivian women and their children by the bright red sea wall

It was a saddening picture compared to the uproarious celebrations that could have been triggered by a mere gust of wind during the Maldivians’ many attempts in the closing moments to creep the ball past the line. But in the end, India’s ironclad goal defence – and more than a little luck – saw them scrape through to their third SAFF victory in four years.