Former Maldives President Warns 1.5ºC Degree Target Is Essential

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Mohamed Nasheed at a press conference

The former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed arrived at the COP26 gathering in Glasgow and warned that his country will disappear if we don't limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

The Maldives, as one of the lowest-lying countries on the planet, is beset with climate issues. Nasheed said: 'Anything above 1.5C and the Maldives will not be there. We cannot sign a suicide pact.'

Earlier this year the committed environmental campaigner, who once held a press conference underwater on a coral reef, survived a bomb attack on his home which left him critically injured. 'I was on the brink of death. I feel there must be a reason why I survived,' he said. 'One of the outcomes will hopefully be that I can work harder to advocate in favour of measures against climate change. I must try to work harder and impress the gravity of the issue on everyone else.'

Now serving as the speaker of the Maldives parliament, Nasheed said he had been shocked at the latest report from the Maldives environment committee, which said weather disaster alerts had increased more than fourfold over the past 20 years and more people were being swept out to sea due to storm surges and rough weather. In addition, coastlines are being eroded and more acidic water is destroying coral reef systems and the fisheries that depend on them.

Top of his wishlist for COP26 is for countries to align their climate plans with the 1.5ºC target. Current commitments are putting the world on track for a devastating 2.7ºC rise, according to the United Nations. Nasheed says he is frustrated by some leaders, such as the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, who describe 1.5ºC as a very tall order because of the possible impact on jobs. 'Listening to these people sometimes sounds like madness. For God’s sake, if you want to protect jobs and a way of life, then you need climate action.'

He is frustrated by the world’s biggest emitter, China. 'They still think it is their right to poison the planet because Europeans have done it in the past. This is a mad idea, as if they are saying ‘the west has brought us to the brink and now we have arrived to push everyone over the edge’. Two wrongs don’t make a right, especially now there is new technology as an alternative to fossil fuels.' 

Nasheed hopes rich nations fulfil their promise of $100bn a year in climate finance starting from 2020, but said cash should not be a substitute for emissions-cutting action.

You can read regular updates on COP26 in the daily reports of our sister publication Geographical. Sign up here for its daily COP26 newsletter.





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