Maldives cabinet meets underwater to stress threat from rising sea levels

Cabinet to meet…underwater.The cabinet will hold an underwater meeting next month where they will sign a resolution calling for the international community to unite in their efforts to tackle global warming at the UN climate change talks in December. President Mohamed Nasheed and 14 cabinet ministers will gather around a table and use hand signals and writing slates to hold a “normal” meeting, said Azim Musthag, the vice-president of the Divers Association Maldives, which is organising the event. Ministers will endorse a statement from Maldivian citizens to be presented at the Copenhagen summit. The statement will read: “We call upon all citizens from all countries big and small, rich and poor, high and low, to join hands and reduce carbon emissions and bring down the level of carbon in the atmosphere to below 350 ppm.” The event will mark International Day of Climate Action and the 350 campaign, which aims to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to the safe threshold of 350 parts per million. Current levels stand at around 390 ppm. “Food, money and happiness”.  Speaking to Minivan News today, Shauna Aminath, deputy undersecretary at the president’s office, said the cabinet meeting would signify the worst possible consequences of climate change. As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, the Maldives is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts sea level rises of up to 59 cm will submerge most of the country’s islands within a decade. “We decided to have an underwater event because water is our most important resource. It’s the oceans. It’s what gives us food, money and happiness,” said Shauna. “If we don’t bring carbon levels to 350, it will have a devastating impact on the Maldives, on our food security, and having to shift our homes will be disastrous.” She added the government pledged its support to Bill McKibben, the man behind the 350 campaign, after he visited the Maldives in July. In an email to Minivan News, McKibben, an American environmentalist, said the cabinet meeting would send out a message that the Maldives was “deadly serious” about taking action to combat climate change. “350 events are a way for citizens and nations to actually say to leaders: we need you to pay attention to the science. Stop listening to the oil companies and start listening to scientists who are sounding a loud warning,” he said.  The president and ministers will undergo dive training by experienced divers and will have divers from the Maldives National Defence Force and the police on hand on the day.

The underwater cabinet meeting will be held a week earlier than the global 350 activities on 24 October. On the day of action itself, a number of other events will be held to show the Maldives’ commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. 350 divers will take to the water to arrange themselves in the shape of the number 350 with coloured lights. A 24-hour dive will also be held to mark the importance of climate change action. A photo exhibition is also planned by the Photographer’s Association and the Maldives Science Society, comprising 350 postcards depicting everyday life in the Maldives. The postcards will be sent to 350 leaders and environmentalists to encourage them to think what they will lose if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked. Uncertain future.  World leaders will convene at the Danish capital in just over two months to forge a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, in the hope of binding countries to dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. McKibben told Minivan News that while the outcome of Copenhagen remained uncertain, he had confidence that the chances of a positive outcome would increase if a global movement demanded change. Shauna said as the country’s chief negotiator, the underwater cabinet meeting showed the government’s support for change. “We need to put aside our differences, we have to be united for this cause whether rich or poor, young or elderly, we need to do something for Copenhagen.” Speaking at the official 350 launch today where the 350 logo was unveiled by Dr Vice-President Mohamed Waheed, Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said the eyes of the world were on the Maldives. “Even though we are a tiny country, there is no one who can talk about this issue in the international arena like us,” he said. “Our word carries weight and what we do is accepted.” While some would be critical about the underwater cabinet meeting, Aslam said it was necessary to send a message to the world. “What we want to symbolise to the world is that even if our country is lost with global warming and rising seas, we are not going to leave,” he said. “Even if we have to stay underwater, we will still remain here.”  news from

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