Maldives minister: Failure to limit warming a death sentence

COLOMBO -- Failure to reduce global warming could spell doom for small islands nations like the Maldives. This could include the loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage.

Maldives minister: Failure to limit warming a death sentence

COLOMBO -- Failure to reduce global warming could spell doom for small islands nations like the Maldives. This could include the loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement was signed by almost all countries. It aims to limit global warming to 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) below levels in late 19th century. Ideally, it should not exceed 1.5 C (2.7 F). Scientists say the world has already warmed to 1.1 C (2 F).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported earlier this year, that the world will likely exceed 1.5 C in the 2030s. This is earlier than anticipated.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Aminath Shauna, Maldives' minister of environment, climate change, and technology said that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence. She spoke from Male, the capital of Maldives.

She spoke ahead of COP26, a crucial U.N. climate summit that begins in Glasgow, Scotland on Oct. 31. She stated that she hopes that the world will take large-scale, rapid actions to limit global warming to 1.5 C and that small islands nations would be left struggling to survive if they fail to do so.

Nearly 1,200 islands are found in the Maldives, with 189 being inhabited by 540,000 inhabitants. She said that the islands are at an average elevation of 3.3 meters above sea level. Rising seas and stronger storms have left no freshwater uncontaminated anywhere in the country, which has made them vulnerable.

"The real question is: What is at stake?" She said, "Our survival, our food, and our income."

She stated that rich countries must fulfill their Paris commitment to spend $100 billion per year to aid poorer nations in coping with climate change and switching to cleaner energy.

She said that so far, only one adaptation project has been approved by the Green Climate Fund, established under the agreement. Even that took three years. She stated that climate change is rapidly affecting the islands and the funds will not be approved until the ground situation has changed.

Half of the Maldives' national budget is spent on climate change mitigation efforts, including sea walls that protect coral reefs. Shauna stated that the coronavirus pandemic decimated Maldives' tourism industry and slowed down its economy by a third.

She stated that "the finance has not reached Maldives or small island states," and that it was important to make the declarations of wealth countries that they have released funds more transparent.

Shauna said that countries should be allowed to repay more slowly. She said that because climate change did not occur in 10 years, financial systems and the developed world shouldn't expect the money to be repaid quickly.

She stated, "We need to unlock our financial system."

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