Poorer nations 'need carbon cuts', urges The Maldives

President Nasheed President Nasheed is trying to organise the voice of "climate-vulnerable" countries

Poor countries as well as rich should look to cut carbon emissions, says Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed.

Continuing to equate the need to develop with the right to emit carbon dioxide is, he says, "quite silly".

Mr Nasheed was speaking to BBC News at the launch of a report on vulnerability to climate impacts, which the authors say shows no nation will be untouched.

He said The Maldives has not received any of the "fast-start" finance pledged by Western governments last year.

It is highly unusual for the leader of a developing nation to call on his or her fellows to cut carbon.

The position of the powerful G77/China bloc - which includes most of the developing world - is that Western nations should cut emissions while others should only have to reduce the rate at which their emissions grow.

However, The Maldives and some other developing nations are known to be somewhat disenchanted with the fact that they have to sit inside the same negotiating bloc as countries that want to develop on the back of expanding fossil fuel use, and some that do not want a legally-binding global agreement to constrain emissions.

"When I started hearing about this climate change issue, I started hearing developing countries say 'we have a right to emit carbon because we have to develop'," he said.

"It is true, we need to develop; but equating development to carbon emissions I thought was quite silly.

"There is new technology - fossil fuel is obsolete, it's yesterday's technology; so we [are aiming to] come up with a development strategy that's low carbon."

The Maldives is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2020; and Mr Nasheed sees the low-carbon development strategy, when it is fully developed, as something that could be picked up by larger nations such as China and India.

Mr Nasheed said that investment in clean energy technology in countries such as China should mean they can move away from fossil fuels faster than they have currently pledged - which would, in turn, change their stance towards the UN climate process.

"They have to rapidly increase their investments in renewable energy, and I think they are doing that - and once they're done it, they're going to say 'right, we need a legally-binding agreement'," he said.

Changing trains

During last December's UN climate summit in Copenhagen, developed nations (headed by Japan, the EU and the US) promised to provide developing countries with $30bn for the period 2010-2 to help them adopt clean technologies and begin to protect themselves against climate impacts.

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How much more stress do we honestly think places highly vulnerable to climate change like Afghanistan or Somalia can take?”

End Quote Ross Mountain Dara

Much of the money has been pledged to individual countries and projects. But, said Mr Nasheed, none has been delivered.

"None at all; it's a nightmare," he said.

"Governments will always drag things, even when it's pledged, even when it's cited in the budget - you can always drag the issue to the next year, and the World Bank, European Union, Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and so on - they all have very difficult procurement procedures and it's very, very difficult."

That rich countries must help poorer ones to adapt, with finance, is enshrined in the UN climate convention (UNFCCC) dating back to 1992.

The three-year "fast-start" finance is seen as a key step in turning that concept into reality.

Athena Ballesteros from the World Resources Institute, which tracks progress on climate finance, said that understanding what has been pledged and paid is very complex; but in some places, progress has definitely been slow.

"Many funds are new, and they're still designing the investment programmes, so it's really taking a long time to release the money," she said.

"Where I think money has started to flow is through bilateral channels, because those are open for overseas development aid. But there, the question is whether the money is really new and additional."

Stressed world

If the conclusions of the new report on climate impacts, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, are correct, much more money will need to be pledged than is currently on the table.

Written by Development Assistance Research Associates (Dara) in conjunction with the Climate Vulnerable Forum - a group of countries that consider themselves at high risk from climate impacts - it seeks to assess the threat climate change poses to individual nations in areas such as human health, economic stress and weather.

Tourist on Maldives beach The Maldives must wrestle with becoming carbon neutral while needing tourists to fly in

Citing World Health Organization figures, it concludes that as many as 350,000 lives are being lost each year from climate impacts now, rising to one million per year by 2030.

"The rise in temperatures over the last century will be doubled in the next 20 to 30 years alone," said Dara director-general Ross Mountain.

"Damage from weather disasters will increase by over 300%. We shouldn't underestimate what kind of effects an explosive increase like this can have, especially since only the smallest of new extremes is enough to overwhelm a whole community.

"How much more stress do we honestly think places highly vulnerable to climate change like Afghanistan or Somalia can take?"

The 50 countries judged as "acutely vulnerable" include many of the world's poorest, including Burma, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Niger and Senegal.

This, said Mr Mountain, would make achieving the Millennium Development Goals even more difficult.

But some richer nations, such as the US, are judged to have a high vulnerability to economic disturbances caused by climate change.

John Ashton, the UK's special envoy on climate change, said the report could play a valuable role in persuading people and governments to take climate change more seriously; many, he said, were "not as scared as they should be".

"We need to find ways of forcing the evidence into the political imagination.

"The vulnerabilities in some places are much more tangible and more immediate, and to have a mounting and increasingly coherent voice from those countries is extremely powerful."

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