Newly elected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives highlighted climate change in his first official address, and recalled former Climate Hero Mohamed Nasheed lead his team at COP24 in Poland.
The announcement came in the wake of an incredible period of political hardship, brought in by former President Abdulla Yameen who is currently implicated in a number of corruption cases. It is expected that many more will follow.
During his leadership, Yameen led a government set on political persecution and overturning the nation’s legal system to suit his own aspirations towards what was described as an “orgy of corruption“.
Yameen’s rule was not seen as a significant back step in terms of the nation’s commitment to climate action. The island nation had already committed to an ambitious plan to power the nation with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and announced plans to rapidly end their use of fossil fuels. However, his desire to cultivate extensive ties with investment from China and Saudi Arabia and political supression made many question the legitimacy of these plans.
President Ibu Solih used his first official address over the weekend, to pledge that “the Maldives will be a leader for island states on addressing climate change” and has promised that both “climate and human rights will be been high” on his agenda.
Just before his oath, he announced that Mohamed Nasheed would join the Maldivian delegation at COP24.
When I asked Aisha Niyaz, a Maldivian environmental consultant who played a key role in the national negotiating team in 2011, just before Nasheed was ousted in a 2012 coup, how this makes her feel, she responded simply: “hope has been rekindled”.
This sense of hope is leading to action. More than 200 Marshallese activists in traditional vessels have rallied off the coast of the nation’s capital, demanding that leaders of developed nations dramatically upscale their plans to limit global warming (above).
However, when Nasheed arrives in Katowice for the UN climate talks in less than 2 weeks, many of his former climate allies will have changed.
Back in 2011, Nasheed caught global attention with an underwater cabinet meeting, and sought out key alliances with the Philippines, Kiribati and Brazil (among others).
This year, the climate community will still be in a sense of Bolsonaro aftershock during COP24, and the new Kiribati President H.E Taneti Maamau will be busy seeking to take his country out from under the ‘climate victim’ curtain and into the investor limelight with plans to “transform Kiribati into the Dubai or Singapore of the Pacific”.
The Philippines has also taken significant steps backward, with Duterte attacking his delegation earlier in the year, and expecting to send an all new (albeit smaller) team to Katowice.
It may be the perfect time for a return to Nasheed’s charismatic leadership style, as I and many others around the world are looking for their own “sense of hope” to be rekindled.
He may also be looking for new allies within the Climate Vulnerable Forum, including Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands