Environment Politics

Make climate change an economic – not green – issue, urges ex-president of Maldives

Winning effective action on climate change will require treating the problem less as an environmental or human rights crisis and more as a sensible economic shift, the former Maldives president said Thursday.

“While it remains an ethical or human rights issue, it’s not so easy to have it in your political manifesto,” Mohamed Nasheed said, pointing to climate change’s political divisiveness in the United States.

But any politician, he said, can win votes by promising more jobs and a stronger economy – something eminently achievable if the world transitions to cleaner and more sustainable energy, a move that also would bring environmental and social benefits.

The world needs to package the benefits of a low-carbon transition in a way “that political parties can embrace”, said Nasheed, speaking at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

Some populist politicians are already persuaded on the economic benefits of stepping up climate action, said Samir Saran, vice president of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, which works on policy responses to problems facing India.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for instance, aims to put in place 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022 – approaching the entire electrical generating capacity of Germany today, Saran said.

The aim is not primarily to fight climate change, but to develop the country – and cut poverty – in the quickest, most effective and most sustainable way, he said.

India, by developing without large amounts of fossil fuels, “will be the first country in the world to create a new model of growth that will be exportable to the whole world”, Saran predicted – a point of national pride and a potential route to economic success.

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