Who’s the next Mohamed Nasheed in the climate debate?

By John Parnell

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, a leading voice for climate vulnerable states, has resigned after an alleged coup plot unfolded. Who will take his place as the figurehead for small and developing nations at risk from climate change?

Nasheed was well-liked and respected in the climate change community. He succeeded in bringing the plight of climate vulnerable nations, particularly small island states such as his own, to international attention.

The Least Developed Countires (LDCs) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), two of the negotiating blocks at the UN Climate Change talks, will sorely miss his presence.

So who among them could take his place?

Karl Hood, Foreign Minister, Grenada

Hood was chair of AOSIS in Durban. His passionate performances at Durban laid the potential plight of the small islands bare.

Under his country’s stewardship, the AOSIS group played a leading role in advancing the BRIC country’s discussions on a potential legally binding deal.

The country must have elections between now and October 2013 however, and Hood’s government could be dislodged too soon for him to have a sustained voice in the UNFCCC process.

Grenada’s Karl Hood asks if the developed world wants his country to “accept annihilation”.

Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests, India

Natarajan is still in the early stages of her new brief but would bring far more clout with her. There could be questions over India’s ability to represent many climate vulnerable countries as it pursues rapid development.

Despite this, Natarajan’s plea for “equity” at the end of the Durban climate talks was widely praised as brave, sincere and necessary.

Rene Orellana, head negotiator, Bolivia

Boliva has not shied away from criticising the UNFCCC process. In Cancun it became the first country to object to an agreement reached by the Convention.

It is also the only nation in the world to have aligned human rights and environmental protection. The Law of Mother Earth effectively give nature the same basic rights as people.

Rene Orellana embodied this fierce defence and strikingly strong principles during Durban. Bolivia’s focus surrounds issues associated with forestation and indigenous rights, putting across an argument to incorporate the small islands could be more difficult.

Bolivia’s Ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, could be another contender. He has spoken out in strong terms before describing post-Copenhagen draft UNFCCC documents as “one-sided” and not worth negotiating.

Rene Orellana tells RTCC of his disappointment at the progress of the talks in Durban.

Nauru's UN Ambassador Marlene Moses at the Occupy COP17 demonstration.

Marlene Moses, UN Ambassador for Nauru

Another representative from a small island state could fill the void left by Nasheed.

Ambassador Moses showed that she had the ability to transfer her influence from the negotiating halls to the crowds gathered outside when she addressed the Occupy COP17 movement in Durban.

The immediate problems of her country, chiefly the loss of fresh water from encroachment of the sea into the water table, are much aligned with those of the Maldives.

Richard Muyungi, head of delegation, Tanzania

Tanzania has been a leader in REDD rollouts. It’s reforestation work has made it a credible voice for an increased pace of action.

Richard Muyungi and Julius Ningu are the figure heads of the country’s charge. Both have also called for increased technology transfer and have appealed vociferously for greater funding to accelerate the growth of successful schemes.

Contact the author of this story @rtcc_john or [email protected]

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