The ‘Maldives National Climate Change Policy Framework’ was unveiled today, outlining strategies for achieving sustainable financing, low emission development, adaptation, fostering sustainable development capacity building and leading advocacy at climate change negotiations at the COP21 in Paris later this year.
The 10-year plan with “strategic polices for responding to climate change impacts” was launched at a ceremony at the Hotel Jen in Malé by President Abdulla Yameen’s special envoy and fisheries and agriculture minister Dr Mohamed Shainee.
In his remarks at the ceremony, environment minister Thoriq Ibrahim said “the policy was developed based on scientific research and in consultation [with] local experts on sustainable development,” according to the environment ministry.
The new policy would “open new doors for addressing climate change impacts and facilitate commencement of new projects” and “guide national action to contribute to international efforts to address climate change.”
The current administration has been criticised for its oil exploration policy with local environmental groups calling the move hypocritical as the Maldives is among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
Some 20 NGOs in February urged President Yameen to stop plans for oil exploration in Maldivian waters. The venture will risk the country’s economic and environmental health, they said.
In late July, parliament also approved controversial amendments to the constitution that allows foreigners to own freeholds in the Maldives with an investment of US$1 billion. Investors can own land if 70 percent of the project site is reclaimed land.
Last week, the Youth Integrity Network expressed concern with the prerequisite, as reclamation would involve “dumping sand on the reefs, which will adversely affect our tourism and fishing industry.”
The climate change policy framework has not been made public yet, but a final draft obtained by Maldives Independent states the five main policy goals “underpin sustainable development in Maldives and the need to urgently scale up the financial resources, use of climate friendly technology and the capacity to adapt and mitigate climate change and integrate climate change into sector and/or thematic policies, plans and budgetary processes to build a low carbon development and climate resilient development in the Maldives.”
The policy framework will provide “a blueprint to build resilience in partnership with our regional and global partners.”
The document warned that climate change could threaten the Maldives survival and sovereignty as sea-level rise “could result in the unavoidable out-migration of some our people”.
“Climate change is a real challenge to the existence and viability of the Maldives due to its vulnerability to the adverse impact of climate change,” reads the document.
“Maldives being, one of the most land scarce and low lying vulnerable island nations, is exposed to the risk of intensifying extreme weather events such as, droughts, flooding and storm surges.”
More than 97 percent of inhabited islands reported beach erosion in 2004, of which 64 percent reported severe beach erosion, the document noted, while 45 percent of tourist resorts have also reported varying degrees of beach erosion.
The Maldives faces numerous challenges in the context of climate change, the document stated, including “extremely high population density, high levels of poverty, a dispersed challenges to communication difficult and expensive transport, and a small island economy that is physically isolated from world markets but highly susceptible to global influences.”
The Maldives aims to play a key “advocacy role in leading the international negotiations and awareness in cross-sectorial areas in favour of the most vulnerable and small island developing states.”
In a press statement today, the environment ministry meanwhile noted that the Maldives continues to play “a key role on international climate change advocacy.”
“Under the initiative of Maldives, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was formed in 1990 to advocate on behalf of small island states in multilateral negotiations. Maldives assumed the Chair of AOSIS for the two year period commencing this year,” the ministry said.
“In this regard, Maldives is taking the lead in negotiating on behalf of small island states in the current negotiations within the United Nations to adopt a new climate agreement in Paris in December this year.”
Speaking at today’s ceremony, Dr Shainee said the policy prioritises securing aid from developed countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Shainee claimed that President Yameen’s efforts to protect the environment over the past two years were unprecedented.