No climate breakthrough in Durban: Maldives

Sep 15, 2011 - 05:41
  • Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam speaks before a climate change conference at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank on September 15, 2011. PHOTO/ AFP

Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said Thursday it was unlikely a meaningful agreement on fighting climate change would be reached at the next UN summit and that this year's event will likely end the same way as the Copenhagen talks held in 2009.

MANILA, Sept 15, 2011 (AFP) - Maldives, an island nation on the frontline of the battle against rising seas, said Thursday it was unlikely a meaningful agreement on fighting climate change would be reached at the next UN summit.

Last year's round of talks in Mexico and the 2009 summit in Copenhagen had largely failed, and it appears this year's event will end the same way, the Maldives' Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said.

Just two months before world leaders are to meet in the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in South Africa's port city of Durban, no-one appears to be in a rush for a new agreement, he said.

"I am not saying that people are not doing anything. But I don't feel the international community is moving on with a sense of urgency to get this done," Aslam told reporters at a climate change conference in Manila.

"No, I am not very hopeful about Durban. The international community is not there yet to reach a global agreement on climate change."

He said the past two meetings had not "made any difference, any change to what we are trying to do" in cutting down emissions.

The November 28 to December 9 talks in Durban are seen as a last chance to renew the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement with binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which is due to expire at the end of 2012.

Maldives, with a population of 315,000, is a popular tourist destination off the coast of India with more than 1,100 islands.

But with its highest elevation at only 2.4 metres (eight feet) above sea level, some of its smaller islets are slowly being eroded by rising seas, Aslam said.

The country's uncertain future has become a cause celebre among international green groups, and various efforts have been made to raise awareness on the problem.

Its president, Mohammed Nasheed, was the subject of a film documentary that chronicled his trips to convince other world leaders on emission cuts.

To make his point more emphatic, Nasheed even held a cabinet meeting under water, making him a poster boy for environmentalists.

Aslam said that various predictions made on sea level rise for this century indicate that small islands could vanish if no drastic changes were made.

"I hope the global community will find a solution to this before it is too late for the Maldives and other small developing island states," he said.

"If you cannot save us, ultimately, you can't save yourselves either."

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