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Maldives Parliament approves motion to declare Climate Emergency

Mariyam Malsa
13 February 2020, MVT 12:16
A climate activist holds a sign which reads, "are you waiting until we sink?". PHOTO: TWITTER/ VISITLAAMU
Mariyam Malsa
13 February 2020, MVT 12:16

The parliament, on Wednesday, passed a resolution to declare a climate emergency in a first-of-its-kind move for Maldivian history.

Passed with the unanimous approval of 68 parliamentarians, the resolution is an expression of nationwide concern over the refusal of certain countries to scale-down emissions, despite scientific consensus on the increasing severity and frequency of climate-related impacts, as well as the resulting repercussions on low-lying island nations such as Maldives.

Calling for global cuts in investment for fossils fuel investments, the resolution seeks to allocate funds to the production of renewable energy sources and maintain gas emissions under certain determined limits.

Furthermore, it expresses a need for Maldives to push for mechanisms within the United Nations (UN) Framework that will enforce economic sanctions on countries found to be in violation of the Paris Agreement.

During the session, MP Mohamed Waheed (Wadde) for Raa Atoll's Unfoogaaru constituency came forward to state, "As a small nation, there is not much we can do [to impede the crisis]."

"Nevertheless, under this state of climate emergency, we must urgently move to first ensure our own internal shortcomings are dealt with accordingly. Then we must ensure that, in moving forward, it [climate crisis] is firmly set to be the main focus of our foreign policy", he affirmed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s special report argues that unprecedented change must be brought to the way human civilization utilizes energy in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 Degrees Celsius, as opposed to 2 Degree Celsius - the point of no return, as declared by scientific consensus.

However, emissions in most developed countries have continued to rise.

During the Maldives' chapters of the global climate strike that took place September 2019, environmental activists across the archipelago called for urgent action concerning the climate crisis, with one collective submitting a list of demands for the government that included the declaration of a climate emergency.

Despite the state designating a number of new protected areas, the government continues to reclaim land and lagoon areas for development purposes, often in contrast with the ruling party's own electoral pledges. A recent example that raised eyebrows across social media platforms were the actions taken by the Environment and Planning Ministries, overriding EPA's rejection of the project made in its Environment Impact Assessment.

Additionally, key pieces of protective legislation, including laws banning the procurement of coconut palms from local islands or the government's pledge to establish EPA as an independent authority, remain yet to be passed or even put into motion.

Environment activists speak out about the loss of vegetation on local islands. Trees and plants are often removed for construction projects or to be sold to hotels and resorts for beautification. Deforestation on this scale is known to be a contributing factor for soil erosion, a naturally occurring phenomenon in Maldives greatly exacerbated by the combined forces of climate change and unsustainable development. IMAGE: TWITTER / ADAM ISHAM

The aforementioned shortcomings exist in contrast to Maldives' stance in the international arena, including advocacy at the COP summits and the country's call to criminalise ecocide at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Parliament's move to declare a Climate Emergency in Maldives comes at a time when reports of island councils in various regions, particularly in Addu, Haa Alif and Baa Atoll, that are scrambling to administer 'quick fixes' for unprecedented rates of erosion, are being published across numerous local media outlets.

A Climate Emergency is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it".

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