Maldives minister on carbon emitters, weather crisis

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Concrete blocks are placed along the shoreline to try and prevent further coastal erosion in Mahibadhoo, Maldives.

Carl Court | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The world’s largest carbon emitters are not listening to what’s happening to countries facing extreme weather changes, said the minister of environment of Maldives, an island nation at risk of disappearing by the end of the century.

The Group of 20 nations contribute to 75% of the world’s emissions, said Aminath Shauna, the Maldives’ minister of environment, climate change and technology, on Monday during CNBC’s Sustainable Future Forum.

“They have not cut down and in fact, as we are coming out of the pandemic, in 2021 we have seen a 5% increase in emissions from the developed world,” she said. “No one is listening to … what we are experiencing in terms of extreme weather events.”

“I don’t believe the largest emitters in the developed world is really listening to the science when listening to what’s really happening to small island countries like the Maldives,” Shauna added.

The Maldives has the lowest terrain of any country in the world, which makes the Indian Ocean archipelago extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels.

“Unless we have rapid immediate and large scale action, we will not be able to contain global temperatures beyond 1.5 [degrees Celsius],” she said at the forum.

We are experiencing things that we thought would happen towards the end of the century.

Aminath Shauna

minister of environment, climate change and technology, Maldives

Earlier this year, Shauna told CNBC that the popular holiday destination could disappear by the end of the century if the world does not act quickly and cohesively to combat climate change.

Currently, more than 80% of the country’s 1,190 islands are just a meter above sea level, making them particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Already, 90% of the islands in the Maldives have reported flooding, 97% have seen shoreline erosion, and 64% have experienced serial erosion, she said at that time.

‘Death sentence’

Shauna told CNBC on Monday that in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit], the world needs to commit to decarbonizing, and agree on net-zero and carbon-neutral policies.

Net-zero emissions is achieved when an entity removes as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as it releases into it.

Read more about clean energy from CNBC Pro

Countries under the 2015 Paris Agreement agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius – the threshold that scientists say could stave off the worst impact of global warming.

“The difference between 1.5 [degrees Celsius] and two really is, as my president did say … a death sentence for us. We are experiencing things that we thought would happen towards the end of the century,” she said.

She was referring to comments made by Maldives’ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last month at the United Nations’ General Assembly meeting, where he urged rich nations to act more strongly against climate change.


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