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Maldives: Gearing up for Copenhagen

In December this year world leaders will gather in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, to craft a new treaty on global carbon emissions. The outcome of United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) and the treaty that will emerge from it – the successor to the Kyoto Protocol – will determine the fate of several vulnerable countries in the world, including the low-lying Indian Ocean island state, the Maldives.

A series of events and activities are being organized in the Maldives to bring the attention of the world to the plight of Maldives, with the hope that a fair deal will be made at the COP15 conference.

A youth group organised the local event for The Global Climate Wake-Up Call initiated by Avaaz.org. Children and adults joined the event held at Artificial Beach of Male’, the capital of the Maldives.

The Global Climate Wake-Call event held in Maldives on September 21, 2009. Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/3941514989/ used under a creative commons license

The Global Climate Wake-Call event held in Maldives on September 21, 2009. Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/3941514989/ Used under a creative commons license

Some of the activities fall on October 24, the International Day of Climate Action spearheaded by the organization 350.org. Vroomfondel discusses some of the activities planned for the day:

On 24th October 2009 350.org is coordinating an International Day of Climate Action in order to unite the public, media and political leaders behind the 350 goal. By having actions all around the world that day, 350.org plans to send a clear message to the world leaders (who will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark this December to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions) that ‘the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.’

Bill McKibben's talk, hosted by the Maldives Science Society, has inspired different individuals and groups in the Maldives to join the 350 campaign and is currently organising different actions for the International Day of Climate Action. So far, four different actions have been registered at 350.org from the Maldives.

One of the activities planned for October 24 is the Postcards from the Frontline, which will make 350 postcards from photos submitted by Maldivians, and send to world leaders, as Vroomfondel explains:

We request ALL MALDIVIANS, young and old, to submit photos for the cause. Entries do not need to fit into a conventional photographic category. It can be absolutely anything that reflects what the Maldives is to you.

350 photos you send will be then made into postcards, and sent to 350 world leaders with a very special appeal. These world leaders will decide the fate of Maldives, and the world, at the crucial UN Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009 (COP15) this December.

Your photo can save our home. And you needn’t even be a professional photographer. Being Maldivian is all that you need to be.

By the time the deadline for photo submissions closed on October 4, more than 6,000 entries were submitted, and this video distributed through Facebook contributed to the promotion of the activity.

Another activity that is being planned for October 24 is a 24-hour dive. Zim, a blogger and young diving instructor involved in organising this exciting event, writes:

In Maldives several activities are going to take place. And one of the key events on the international day of action is the 24 hour Underwater Rally organized by the Divers Association of Maldives (DAM). 350 divers, diving in teams are going to spend 24 hours underwater. The message DAM is giving is that Maldives is sinking and it’s more than just a country being lost to the sea. A unique heritage is gone. An irreplaceable ecosystem is being destroyed. The rally would be one of a kind.

Divers Association of Maldives is also organizing the first underwater cabinet meeting in the Maldives, scheduled for October 17. Zim discusses the significance of this event and the 24-hour underwater rally:

The President of Maldives along with all the cabinet ministers are going to meet underwater while using scuba. Using hand signals and slates they are going to endorse and sign a message from the people of Maldives to the world leaders meeting at Copenhagen this December for the Conference of Parties (COP 15).

[..] We are on the edge. With just a couple of steps forward Maldives along with a number of other vulnerable countries will be lost beneath the waves. We ask everybody not to sign our suicide pact.

On September 26, the local NGO Strength of Society (S.O.S.) hosted a workshop World Wide Views on Global Warming, which was part of an international event, to find out the opinion of ordinary citizens on climate change and to pass the views to policymakers. S.O.S. blog gives details of this unique event:

The purpose of World Wide Views is to pass on the opinions of ordinary citizens to political decision-makers. Results from World Wide Views will therefore be delivered directly to Connie Hedegaard, host of the UN Climate Conference (COP15), who this December together with political leaders from all over the world will be making decisions with far-reaching consequences for the future of the planet.

During this day citizens will be introduced to the same information material in all 38 countries, which presents them with different dilemmas in the climate debate. On the basis of this material and their own experience, citizens will answer the same questions, composed by The Danish Board of Technology. Results from all countries will currently be uploaded on www.wwviews.org. During this 24 hours online event, three international expert panels will comment results as they come in and make live videoconferences, which will be visible to everyone with access to the Internet.

Fenfulhangi blogs about the outcome of the workshop held in the Maldives:

This meeting brought together a group of citizens to and helped find their views on Climate Change and the Global policies regarding it. This was the first of its kind…maybe this is what the government should also be doing. More democratic values are realized through these kinds of public participation activities. Check out the results compared to other countries. IT is quite interesting. it seems we are not as concerned as other citizens of the world on the Climate Change issue. Strange ain't it.

Bluepeace, the first environmental organization formed in the Maldives, is organizing a photo exhibition named ‘Vulnerable’, to document the vulnerability of Maldives to climate change. The exhibition will be hosted in Copenhagen in December by Klimaforum09, an alternate climate summit with participants from civil society organizations and international environmental movements. The blog of Bluepeace explains the importance of this exhibition:

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, Maldives is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The proliferation of images in today’s internet age is such that Maldives is known the world over as a stunning holiday destination. While Maldives has been the subject of many documentaries and news articles regarding climate change, to date no documentary has been produced by Maldivians for an international audience. This is a chance for Maldives to show vulnerability to the world as seen through our eyes.

As Maldives gears up to Copenhagen with attention-grabbing events, Fenfulhangi asks some critical questions:

1-Will the new President Mohammed Nasheed attend the summit with the talks of lack of funding in the government budget?
2-As one of the major contributors to Climate Change and its adverse effects; Will the USA sign onto the new document that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol that USA previously refused to sign onto?
3-Will there be same or harsher penalties for developing countries that emit large amounts of CO2 or will it be the richer countries who pay?

Bluepeace, which will represent the Maldives in a number of civil society forums in Copenhagen in December, sums up the issues that small island states and vulnerable countries face and stresses the urgent need of working together to find a solution for Planet Earth:

The issues of migration and adaptation, the scenario of becoming sea level refugees one day, and joining forces with the most vulnerable countries to combat climate change will be some of the issues that Bluepeace hopes to debate and discuss in Copenhagen.

In November 1989, less than three months after Bluepeace was formed, the first small states conference on sea level rise was held in the Maldives. As a dramatic conclusion to the conference, a demonstration was held in Male’, in which students and the general public spoke on the imminent dangers of living in a low-lying country. A large billboard placed by Bluepeace asked the question “Do you know we are just four feet above sea level?” Twenty years later we need not ask the same question, as the world is well-aware of the dangers Maldives faces. However, we face the urgent need to talk and work with the rest of the world to find solutions.

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