The Maldives has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10 percent before 2030 in a new action plan submitted ahead of crucial climate change negotiations in December.
A universal climate change agreement is expected to be reached at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, France.
The 10 percent target falls far short of ambitious plans announced by President Mohamed Nasheed in early 2009 to become carbon neutral by 2020, which has since been scrapped by successive administrations.
According to the Maldives’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat this week – the country will generate about 3.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 under the business as usual (BAU) scenario, based on the estimated growth rate of imported fossil fuel usage.
The government intends to reduce its GHG emissions by switching to renewable sources of energy.
“These actions and undertakings could be scaled-up to 24% in a conditional manner, in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by availability of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building,” reads the INDC document.
The Maldives’ energy demand is completely met by imported fossil fuels. But the country’s contribution to global GHG emissions was only 0.003 percent in 2011.
The country spends 30 percent of its GDP on importing fossil fuels. In 2012, the Maldives spent US$486 million on oil imports, and the figure is estimated to increase to US$700 million by 2020.
The INDC noted that despite “some solar photovoltaic penetration” in recent years, the amount was “insignificant compared to the country’s energy demand.”
However, in April, Dr Ibrahim Nashid, managing director of Renewable Energy Maldives, told The Maldives Independent that although renewable energy requires a high initial investment, the Maldives has interested and capable parties.
Nashid welcomed the ongoing solar energy projects but criticised their limited scope as well as the government’s “lack of political will” and long-term planning.
The current administration, meanwhile, has faced criticism over its plans for oil exploration in Maldivian waters. In February, some 20 NGOs urged President Abdulla Yameen to reconsider the policy, saying the venture will risk the country’s economic and environmental health.
Local environmental groups opposed to the move say exploring for fossil fuels is hypocritical, as the Maldives is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.
In early August, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee announced that a geological survey carried out by a team of scientists at the University of Hamburg has confirmed the presence of oil and gas in the Maldives. Shainee said later that an agreement will be signed with a foreign company by the end of the year to conduct an oil exploration survey.
The INDC claimed that switching to alternative energy options is “severely constrained by the limited land area, geographic isolation of islands and geographic dispersion of populations.”
“Solar irradiance is available in the country throughout the year, however due to lack of technical capacity, limited land area, already established diesel based power generation systems and high investment costs pose a major challenge to the introduction of solar PV systems in the country,” the document explained.
Technologies to harness ocean currents and waves are at pilot stages and not commercially available, it added, while wind resources in the Maldives are low “due to the low-lying and flat nature of the country.”
“These unfavourable conditions and barriers severely limit the use of alternative energy sources in the Maldives and have resulted in Maldives being heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels,” the document stated.
The INDC also outlined adaptation plans to address the impacts of climate change, such as coastal protection, enhancing food and water security, improving resilience of critical infrastructure, and safeguarding coral reefs.
In the key tourism and fisheries industries, the INDC noted plans for establishing an insurance mechanism for risk sharing and risk management and introducing a “green tax” in November to finance environmental management.
As tuna is expected to move deeper water due to climate change impacts, the plans for the fisheries industry includes adapting tuna catch from shallow water to deep water, diversification to sustainable use of available marine resources. and increasing access to finance to develop mariculture.
Meanwhile, on September 25, ministers of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) met for the first time under the Maldives’ chairmanship at the UN headquarters in New York, and discussed the group’s role at the upcoming climate conference.
AOSIS is a coalition of 44 low-lying and coastal nations. The group is pushing for a legally binding protocol in Paris that would limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim chaired the meeting, where the ministers discussed “how to strategise in including loss and damage, differentiation, and finance for implementation in the agreement,” according to the environment ministry.
“Ministers provided the AOSIS negotiators with clear mandate on dealing with these critical issues for AOSIS,” the ministry said.