Mohamed Nasheed warns that without restructuring, the island nation can’t afford projects to protect its land and citizens.
Around 80 percent of the islands of the Maldives are only one meter above sea level. To protect them from coastal erosion and being completely flooded, Nasheed says the country must invest in mitigation projects like water-breakers. “One meter of shoreline in the Maldives protected by a water-breaker costs $3,000. An embankment would cost $4,000 a meter. That’s $7,000 to protect a meter of shoreline, and we have hundreds of islands”, he elaborates at “Bloomberg Green”.
Mammoth projects like this require funding – which is impossible without debt restructuring for vulnerable countries: “We have to restructure our debt. When we took the debt, the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was telling us that extreme weather is not upon us.” The country spends up to 40 percent of its budget on debt repayment – with another 25 percent on adaption measures, the Maldives are exposed to the risk of a severe debt crisis.
Nasheed, who led the Maldives from 2008 – 2012 and is now ambassador for the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), continues: “The CVF countries together must argue for debt restructuring. Instead of asking for adaptation, please don’t take from us for a while. That’s my COP strategy.” (For further reading on his ideas, see also this interview in CBC radio).
If no measures are taken against climate change, the country’s environment minister Aminath Shauna warned at CNBC, the Maldives could disappear by the end of the century.
The DRGR project highlights that in many low- and middle-income countries debt service is impeding crisis responses, constraining the ability to adapt to the impending climate crisis and threatening the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Read our enhanced proposal that calls for a concerted and comprehensive debt relief on a global scale to free up resources in heavily indebted developing countries to support sustainable recoveries, boost economic resilience, and foster a just transition to a low-carbon economy.