President Abdulla Yameen has expressed disappointment with the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, calling it a blow to global efforts and a setback for essential multilateral processes.
“As one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and a leader of 37 island and low-lying coastal nations at the United Nations, we are especially disappointed that the world’s largest economy and biggest historic emitter abdicated its responsibility on such a critical issue,” reads a statement issued Friday by the president’s office.
The statement took note of the announcement by the European Union and China to hold a special climate summit in September and the assurances of commitment by India and Brazil.
“The Maldives will continue its historic role as the voice of the nations most vulnerable to climate change and work with all partners, new and old, to realise the promise of a clean energy economy and healthy planet,” Yameen said.
The Maldives, which presently chairs the Alliance of Small Island States – a coalition of 44 low-lying and coastal nations – signed the Paris accord in April last year, becoming only the fourth nation to do so after Fiji, Marshall Islands, and Palau.
During the climate change talks, the Maldives along with other small islands states lobbied to keep global temperature rises to 1.5-degree Celsius. With the exception of Syria and Nicaragua, every other country in the world signed the historic pact to reduce greenhouse gases emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.
As the world’s low-lying country, the Maldives is among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.
In a new action plan submitted ahead of the climate change negotiations in December 2015, the Maldives pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent before 2030 by switching to renewable sources of energy.
The 10 percent target fell far short of ambitious plans announced by former President Mohamed Nasheed in early 2009 for the Maldives to become carbon neutral by 2020, which has since been scrapped by successive administrations.
The current administration has faced criticism over its seemingly contradictory policies of investing in renewable energy and exploring for oil.
“US relinquishes climate leadership but the rest of the world knows there is no
#PlanetB and will move on to clean tech economy,” Nasheed tweeted after the announcement by US President Donald Trump.
The former president became a global climate change icon after staging an underwater cabinet meeting and pledging to make the Maldives the world’s first carbon neutral country.
Nasheed told Blue Ridge Public Radio that “President Trump has sentenced us to death really and we seem therefore now to be on death row”.
But he expressed hope that renewable energy and green technologies will continue to develop with backing from both the private sector and state and local government in the US.
The US decision to pull out of the Paris agreement was meanwhile met with a backlash across the globe as many countries reaffirmed commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
Trump also said the US would stop contributing to the Green Climate Fund, a global initiative established to provide financing from wealthy nations for adaptation projects in developing countries.
The US pledge of US$3 billion for the fund was twice the amount pledged by Japan, the second-largest donor. The previous US administration had provided US$1 billion and the GCF released US$183 million in funding ahead of climate change talks in Paris.
In November 2015, the GCF approved US$23.6 million for a project to ensure the delivery of safe freshwater to 105,000 people in the outer islands of the Maldives. An agreement to formalise the project was signed between the UNDP and the environment ministry in early May.
According to the UNDP, the five-year project targets 49 islands across of 13 atolls of the country that “continue to experience water shortages linked to low rainfall and extended dry periods brought on by a changing climate.”