Maldives: for us climate change is a matter of survival

The Maldives, the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago that  underwent a tumultuous regime change, says the "mistrust" between rich and poor nations on climate change negotiations needs to go and all countries should shun the blame game while dealing with an issue so critical to everyone's survival, particularly small island nations like theirs.

"There is lot of mistrust in climate change negotiations as developing countries think this is obstruction to their development while developed countries think this is going to challenge their economy and to bring them down," Mohamed Aslam, who was the Maldavian environment minister till Tuesday's regime change, told IANS in an interview. He was in the capital earlier for the Delhi Sustainable Summit.

Maldives is part the Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS), a 39-country grouping of island nations, which would be the first to be affected by rising sea levels due to global warming.      

The problem is particularly acute  for the Maldives as the island nation of 10 million has a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 metres, averaging only 1.5 metres, above sea level. Eighty percent of the total land mass is only 1 metre above sea level.

According to Aslam, whose country is currently in turmoil after Tuesday's regime change that ousted president Mohamed Nasheed says was foisted on him, "the entire question is about humanity and survival of all the species on the planet, particularly our people".  

“We need to get away from suspicion. We have been pointing fingers at others and indulging in a blame game…the blame game is still on and we need to get away from this,” said the minister, who also held the housing portfolio, said.

It was to highlight the threat to the Maldives that Nasheed held the world's first underwater cabinet meeting in October 2009.

Expressing his disappointment over the outcome at climate change talks in Durban, Aslam said: “We wanted to have a legal binding treaty in 2009 during Copenhagen talks but that did not happen. I am disappointed with delay as I have been in this process for so many years but my disappointment won’t be the reason to give up.”

“What we could get in Durban was to have a legal binding agreement by 2015 and bring it into force by 2020. The question is if we can work on this. I think we can work from here but we have to put lots of efforts.”

Aslam said that having a common regime to cut down emissions does not mean that we forget the debt and historical responsibilities of rich countries, which are responsible for causing the problem.

“We cannot preach our people that we did not cause the problem and somebody else, so we won’t do anything as truth is that we all are really affected by it. We need to break by this narrative and say ok it’s a common problem we know you caused it and you have a responsibility but we also have a responsibility,” he said.

According to Aslam, AOSIS was not advocating going back to Stone Age or don’t provide electricity but was for finding an alternative and show willingness to move ahead.

On the issue of money required to take measures for adapting to climate change, he said: “Money is an essential component atleast for adaptation but again this is not all about money. I am not looking for money … I want a commitment from all developed and developing countries to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we emit and find an alternative for your development,” he said.

Explaining about the measures taken to deal with climate change in the island nation, Aslam said: “We are in the process of increasing power production from renewable sources of energy and in couple of years the percentage of renewable would be 30 percent of total energy mix.”

New Maldavian President Mohamed Waheed has dismissed his predecessor's entire cabinet and appointed new home and defence ministers.

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