Maldives president discusses climate change with Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS) Days after he made a splash by holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight perils of climate change, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday to seek India’s support for a common position on global warming.

Manmohan Singh held talks with Nasheed, the youngest leader to head the Indian Ocean atoll island that faces an existential threat from global warming, on a wide range of bilateral and global issues at his 7 Race Course Road residence.

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The two leaders discussed possibilities of evolving a common regional approach on climate change and also touched on the global economic downturn that has impacted tourism-driven Maldivian economy adversely, sources said.

Member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had agreed Tuesday to make a separate statement as a group at the Copenhagen meet on climate change in December.

Nasheed was the guest of honour at the inaugural session of the Delhi High Level Conference on Climate Change and Technology Transfer that began here Thursday morning.

Making an impassioned speech at the inaugural session, he said that for the Maldives climate change was “not an abstract irritation but a clear and present danger”.

Pointing out that holding global warming to two degrees Celsius — as promised by the G20 earlier this year — was not good enough for his country, Nasheed said: “We don’t want to trade our paradise for a climate refugee camp”.

Nasheed arrived on a five-day state visit Wednesday, his second visit to India after he dislodged Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Maldives’ ruler for three decades, in landmark elections late last year.

Nasheed will also interact with business leaders of India and seek greater investment in the Maldivian economy which is said to be recovering fast from the downturn. India has identified tourism, fisheries, infrastructure and marine transport as key areas of cooperation with the Indian Ocean island nation.

The Maldives, located southwest of Sri Lanka, is one of the world’s lowest lying island groups that face the prospect of extinction from sea level rise triggered by global warming.

In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country practically uninhabitable.