Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Acting locally is not enough when it comes to climate change
The plight of the inhabitants of Tuvalu, as they watch their islands disappear under the Pacific waves, was the starting point for this present discussion on climate change. The following article by Abdullah Shakir Mohamed from Male’ in the Maldives (Indian Ocean) clearly points out that acting locally is just not enough when it comes to climate change.
Climate change and global warming are issues that greatly concern Maldivians. The phrase “Dhuniye hoonuvun” (Global warming in Dhivehi language) is commonly used by all inhabitants, from the youngest to the oldest, as we are all experiencing it.
Located near the equator, our small island country with its low-lying islands is a tropical paradise – but with the present threat of environmental disaster as a result of climate change and global warming - the unanswered question now is: How long we can stay unaffected?
One of the tragic events that brought the changing climate and environmental impacts into focus for us was the experience of tidal waves in the capital Male’ in April 1987. As we all agree, this is a clear sign that low-lying islands such as ours could vanish before our very eyes.
As we look at the socio-economic development of our country, taking into account our limited natural resources, all of which are very closely related to the environment, then even the slightest change in the climate may cause a dynamic disaster to the county’s social and economic welfare. The coral bleaching episode of 1998 that was due to high water temperatures caused by one of the largest El Nino events in this century was one such disaster. The small islands of the Maldives are very much dependant on their surrounding reefs; without the reefs, the islands would not even exist. Furthermore our inhabitants are very much dependant on the reefs for their livelihood. The Maldive islands are famous for their underwater beauty. This is one of the main reasons why a good income is earned through tourism.
We have in the past, and are still trying in the present, to protect our environment. The government has taken every step it can to protect the environment from global warming and sea level rise. Solar energy programs were conducted in many islands. A three-year program to plant two million trees was started in 1996 and was successfully completed. Measures to protect the reefs include the banning of coral mining from nearshore reefs and reducing taxes for alternative building materials such as cement, aggregate and river sand. A law ensures Environmental impact assessments are carried out for all development projects. The government has also started implementing a four-year Climate Change Project with Global Environment Facility assistance (under this project, a national greenhouse gas inventory, mitigation plan, vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategies will be prepared). Many other programs are being organised in the atoll groups and at the individual island level by different environment and development clubs and non-governmental organizations.
Is it possible for small island countries alone to fight global warming? No, it needs global attention. The rate of pollution is much higher in the large developed cities, which contribute significantly to global warming and climate change. If we don’t get enough attention from developed countries, there is nothing we can do to save our earth, our environment and ourselves. So the best policy for protecting our earth from global warming and climate change is the polluter pays policy: they pollute more, they pay more.
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