Support to climate change adaptation and mitigation in Maldives

Maldives is an archipelago of some 26 low-lying coral atolls located in the Indian Ocean. More than 80% of the islands making up the Maldives are less than one meter above mean sea level. Climate change is a stark reality for Maldivian communities already experiencing water shortage, damage to homes and infrastructure, damage to food crops from saltwater intrusion and an increase in epidemic outbreaks of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya linked to climate-related hazards.

Stresses on coral reefs, which include an increase in sea surface temperature, are also a concern since Maldives economy (in particular fisheries and tourism) is heavily reliant on the proper functioning and survival of the coral reef system – which also provides a natural defence for the coastline. Climate change is not the only culprit for these problems; but it compounds and exacerbates vulnerabilities induced by multiple human pressures, including the lack of proper waste and sewage management systems, unsustainable development practices such as sand mining, dredging and reef entrance blasting, and the inappropriate design and construction of coastal infrastructure.

Adaptation to climate change is a priority for the Government of Maldives. The first National Adaptation Plan of Action identifies several axes of intervention such as critical infrastructure, tourism, fisheries, health, water resources, agriculture and coral reef biodiversity. In this context, the GCCA contributes to a multi-donor Climate Change Trust Fund set up to finance adaptation and low-carbon technology initiatives. The latter will support energy security and help reduce the cost of importing fossil fuels.

"Sustaining wetlands and coral reefs is a cost-effective strategy for climate change adaptation with strong benefits for disaster mitigation, ecosystem conservation and economic growth.”
Robyn Mudie, Australia’s High Commissioner for Maldives, at the launching ceremony of the Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund, 19 September 2012

"Independence from carbon-based fuels, if achieved through energy efficiency improvements and use of indigenous renewable energy resources has important energy security co-benefits as it will avoid fossil fuel imports that cost Maldives 20% of its GDP annually."
Dr Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Environment and Energy, at the launching ceremony of the Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund, 19 September 2012

Building a climate-resilient economy

Overall objective:

Support the country in the development and implementation of its climate change strategy and action plan.

Specific objective:

Build a climate-resilient economy and society in Maldives through adaptation to climate change as well as mitigation for a carbon-neutral development path.

Main expected results and activities 

The capacity of the Government of Maldives and other national stakeholders to develop, formulate, implement and mainstream climate change policies and strategies is enhanced.

Programme activities aim to develop the technical capacities of sector ministries, other authorities at central and local level, civil society organisations and the private sector, to participate in strategic policy dialogue and international events on climate change; and to lower the carbon intensity of development. Capacity building is expected to occur notably through involvement in field projects.

The adaptive capacity of Maldives to manage climate change related risks is enhanced.

A project entitled ‘Wetlands Conservation and Coral Reef Monitoring for Adaptation to Climate Change’ is supported, in recognition of the fact that the Maldives economy is heavily reliant on the proper functioning and the survival of wetlands and the coral reef system, which are put under stress by human activities but also increasing sea surface temperatures.

Low-carbon waste management and energy systems are developed or strengthened.

Programme activities aim to promote the adoption of low-carbon technologies in the waste management and water and sanitation sector, through innovative financing schemes involving private-public partnerships with local private resorts. A range of energy sector solutions should also be tested, including demand-side management, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies. This will happen through grant support to two additional projects:

  • The ‘Clean Energy for Climate Mitigation’ project aims to serve as a replicable model on safe and reliable integration of renewable energy resources into the country’s energy mix and the promotion of efficient use of energy.
  • The ‘Solid Waste Management in the Ari Atoll ’ grant supports the development of public-private partnerships for the transfer of residual waste to a central solid waste disposal facility, thus contributing to marine environmental conservation while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from inadequate waste disposal, in particular from the tourism sector.

Private-public partnerships are promoted in support of mitigation objectives.

Field activities are complemented by support for establishing an appropriate policy and regulatory environment, suitable for leveraging public-private partnerships, in particular with the tourism sector.

Awareness is raised among island communities on climate change issues, and lessons learned from pilot actions and solid waste management actions are disseminated.

Awareness raising and training activities are part of the field activities supported by the programme. Pilot activities were selected in part on the basis of their potential for replication. Lessons will be learned from their implementation, and they will be disseminated.

Key achievements 
  • The Climate Change Trust Fund was formally launched in September 2012.
  • Grant agreements were signed between April and December 2012 for 3 projects, which have started operations:
    • The “Wetlands conservation and coral reef monitoring for adaptation to climate change” project, implemented in Fuvahmulah of Gnaviyani Atoll, Hithadhoo of Addu Atoll and Alif Alif Ukulhas Island in North Ari Atoll. The project will benefit 22 000 inhabitants, enabling the local governments to implement a clear strategy for wetland management, drainage management, ecotourism and community rainwater harvesting. It also plans to enter into a partnership with selected tourist resorts in the North and South Male Atolls for coral reef monitoring and demonstrate how information from monitoring can be used to support decision-making to prioritize areas for conservation. This is particularly relevant in the Maldives, which economy is dependent on its unique biodiversity, with 71% of national employment, 49% of public revenue, 62% of foreign exchange, 98% of exports and 89% of GDP is obtained from tourism and fisheries.
    • The “Clean energy for climate mitigation” project, which introduces innovative mechanisms to provide 300 MWh annually of renewable energy through grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems and energy efficiency measures to 7 000 inhabitants on Thinadhoo Island in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. The project feeds into a US$30 million World Bank-Asian Development Bank programme, the Scaling up Renewable Energy Programme (SREP), as the first government-led pilot project on renewable energy under the investment plan for carbon neutrality. Works are currently underway on solar installations.
    • The “Ari Atoll Solid Waste Management” project, which will help effectively manage solid waste generated in selected inhabited islands and resorts of Ari Atoll. The project aims to “resuscitate” 5 (currently idle) island waste management centres built with EU tsunami relief funding, and will help build the institutional capacity of Island Councils and communities in relation to waste management. At present composting has commenced and linkage with markets for compost is being made. Procurement for a barge to transfer non bio-degradable waste is on-going.
  • The Climate Change Trust Fund project was showcased at a side event held at the UNFCCC COP18 Summit in Doha on 7 December 2012. Maldives was represented by the Minister of Environment, Dr Mariyam Shakeela, also present in the COP19 in Warsaw.
Lessons learned 
  • Project selection has been lengthy and at times difficult. The need for sustained consultation and engagement with the government and all stakeholders is imperative, especially considering that neither donors nor the project administrator are physically present in the Maldives.
  • Capacity of the public sector, both at central and local government levels, can be a challenge for future climate change programmes. Capacity building must be factored into projects to ensure sustainability.
Way forward 

The 3 projects describe above have scope to be replicated throughout the Maldivian islands/atolls. The EU and the Government of Maldives are working on a proposal to commit an extra €4 million (out of EU country programme funds) to scale up the ongoing activities.