Mohamed Nasheed: climate denying Conservatives “risk irrelevancy”

Former Maldives President says right wing parties on “wrong side of history”  if they continue to promote climate denial

(Pic: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

(Pic: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

Conservative politicians are risking “irrelevancy” by failing to address the causes of climate change, the former President of the Maldives warns today.

Mohamed Nasheed, a Conservative himself, labels Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and the US Tea Party’s hostility to low carbon policies as examples of “antediluvian denialism” afflicting centre-right parties.

“Over the past few weeks, as the world commemorates Nelson Mandela, an uncomfortable spotlight has been shone on Conservatives who branded the ANC as terrorists in the 1980s,” he says in an article on the UK ConservativeHome website.

“How will today’s crop of Conservative climate refuseniks explain themselves to future generations, in a world made hotter, nasty and poor by global warming?”

He adds: “There is nothing Conservative about advocating for the destruction of the climate, and thus all we hold dear. This is not a credible Conservative standpoint: it is reckless and extreme.”

While President, Nasheed famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the impacts climate change is having on rising sea levels and ocean acidification.

His first year in office culminated in the disastrous 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, which he had hoped could ensure the environmental integrity of the 1000+ islands that make up the country.

Lying just 1.5m above the Indian ocean, the Maldives are acutely vulnerable to any changes in sea levels. In the past Nasheed has compared their predicament to Poland’s in 1939, ahead of the invasion by Nazi Germany.

Time for leadership

Links between conservative and climate sceptic groups are nothing new. A recent study in the Climatic Change journal revealed that nearly $1 billion may have been spent by centre-right and right-wing groups opposed to climate action in the USA between 2003-2010.

President Barack Obama’s efforts to drive carbon cutting policies through Congress have been met with stiff resistance from some Republicans, who say he’s engaged in a ‘war on coal’ which will drive up energy prices.

In the UK a vocal minority of climate sceptic MPs in the Conservative party has succeeded in forcing Prime Minister Cameron to retreat from his initial pledge to lead the ‘greenest government ever’.

Despite making the link between extreme weather events and climate change last week, in November 2013 sources close to Cameron told one newspaper he was determined to ‘get rid of all the green crap’.

With eight months until Ban Ki-moon’s climate leader’s summit in New York and just under two years until a UN climate deal is scheduled to be signed in Paris, heads of government are coming under increasing pressure to explain how they plan to reduce their own ‘carbon footprint’.

Citing examples of leadership former conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and Ronand Reagan, Nasheed says right-wing parties should stop acting as the oil industry’s “trade union”, and take urgent steps to slash fossil fuel funding and conserve the environment.

“As climate change bites, more and more world leaders are forced to grapple with its consequences: fiercer droughts, wildfires, storms and floods,” he says.

“A denialist, Conservative movement has no solutions to offer these countries and therefore risks irrelevancy.”

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