Desperate to finance fight against climate change, former Maldives president calls for debt restructuring

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Without debt restructuring, the Maldives will struggle to finance much-needed climate change adaptation measures – even as the island nation faces the existential threat of sea level rise – according to the former president of the country.

Mohamed Nasheed, who ruled the Maldives from 2008 to 2012 and lobbied for more attention to the effects of climate change on the country, said vulnerable countries will struggle to repay their debt while mitigating the effects of global warming of the planet.

“The planet has already warmed enough, coming out of its usual course, and so we will face challenges with severe weather conditions ahead,” Nasheed said. Day 6 guest host Faith Fundal.

Among the lowest nations in the world, 80% of the islands of the Maldives are only one meter above sea level. This makes the archipelago’s 1,200 islands extremely vulnerable to storm surges and severe weather phenomena.

The inhabited islands, around 200, are home to a population of around 530,000, meaning that solutions are urgently needed.

In order to protect the islands, Nasheed says the country needs to invest in mitigation projects such as water breakers to help slow coastal erosion.

But he says with the country spending around 30 to 40 percent of its budget on debt repayment and another 25 percent on adaptation measures, the Maldives is facing a financial crisis.

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed ruled the country from 2008 to 2012. During his tenure, he held an underwater meeting with ministers to draw attention to the effects of climate change. (Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters)

The Maldives spends around $ 10 million per year on coastal protection initiatives, but will need $ 8.8 billion to protect all of its inhabited islands, according to a 2016 estimate from its Environment Department reported by Reuters.

“In order for us to have a decent life, we need to be able to suspend our debt repayments and also spend on adaptation measures,” said Nasheed, who is now an ambassador for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of severely affected countries. disproportionate. by climate change.

“The most vulnerable country in the world”, declares the minister

Speaking on CNBC in May, the Maldives’ Environment Minister Aminath Shauna warns the country could disappear by the end of the century whether environmental damage continues at the current rate.

“Climate change is real and we are the most vulnerable country in the world,” she said.

As the sea level rises, water from the oceans encroaches on land, which is already consumed by increasingly powerful waves eroding the coasts. Warmer oceans have also resulted in coral bleaching and loss of biodiversity, which has impacted the region’s fishing industry.

Freshwater supplies have also been contaminated with seawater, requiring costly desalination, Nasheed says.

A resort island in the Maldives. About 80% of the islands of the Maldives are located one meter above sea level. (Reinhard Krause / Reuters)

It’s no surprise that the country, best known for its luxury resorts, is already gearing up for a warmer future.

The government has built dikes and is also implementing natural solutions like planting coral reefs to help reduce coastal erosion.

A artificial island, built with sand pumped from the seabed, will house the city of hope – a new colony that rests two meters above sea level – in the years to come.

But efforts to mitigate climate change require funding – and Nasheed maintains it will be impossible without restructuring the debt of vulnerable countries like his.

“It’s through [restructuring] that we would be able to find room in our budgets to build the water breakers, to build the embankments, to raise our land, to build flood protection systems, to have better irrigation so that we can survive “, did he declare.

Tipping point

A report released earlier this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that in several scenarios the Earth will exceed 2 ° C warming compared to the pre-industrial era this century, unless significant reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are reduced. emissions will occur in the decades to come.

In the wake of the report, Nasheed warns that Earth is at a tipping point.

“Everything is getting out of hand. We are losing the balance of the planet,” he said, echoing calls for measures that would limit warming to just 1.5 C and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

WATCH: IPCC says world is dangerously close to uncontrollable warming

The UN sounds the alarm on major “irreversible” climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world is dangerously close to uncontrollable warming – and that humans are “unequivocally” to blame. 3:48

Even still, Nasheed says he’s positive about the possibilities that technology offers in the effort to slow global warming.

“I am very optimistic, mainly because renewables are now financially viable, economically feasible,” he said. “Even if people try to sell fossil fuels, soon [will] exit the market. “

“The world will be challenged. There is no doubt about it … But the question is how far can we adapt to survive the extreme weather conditions that lie ahead?


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Reuters. Produced by Sameer Chhabra.

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