Saturday, October 17, 2009
Maldives cabinet makes a splash
The government of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the low-lying Indian Ocean nation.
President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.
Ministers spent half an hour on the sea bed, communicating with white boards and hand signals.
The president said the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December cannot be allowed to fail.
At a later press conference while still in the water, President Nasheed was asked what would happen if the summit fails. "We are going to die," he replied.
The Maldives stand an average of 2.1 metres (7ft) above sea level, and the government says they face being wiped out if oceans rise.
"We're now actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked," President Nasheed said.
"If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world," he added.
Three of the 14 cabinet ministers missed the underwater meeting, about 20 minutes by boat from the capital, Male, because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad, officials said.
President Nasheed and other cabinet members taking part had been practising their slow breathing to get into the right mental frame for the meeting, a government source said.
About 5m underwater, in a blue-green lagoon on a small island used for military training, they were observed by a clutch of snorkelling journalists.
Each minister was accompanied by a diving instructor and a military minder.
While underwater, they signed a document ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, calling on all nations to cut their carbon emissions.
World leaders at the summit aim to create a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.