Maldives tells U.N. climate talks: 'We are not prepared to die'

KATOWICE, Poland (Reuters) - The Maldives will do all in its power to keep “our heads above water”, the head of its delegation at U.N. climate talks said on Thursday in an impassioned appeal for nations to overcome their divisions over how to tackle global warming.

The low-lying Maldives is among countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and coral reef deterioration.

“We are not prepared to die. We are not going to become the first victims of the climate crisis. Instead, we are going to do everything in our power to keep our heads above water,” Mohamed Nasheed told delegates at the talks in Katowice, Poland.

“Climate change is a national security issue for us. It is an existential threat,” he said, adding that a rise in global temperatures could still be avoided but countries had to unite.

Nasheed was the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader but was ousted in 2012 in a coup, imprisoned then granted asylum in Britain.

The Maldives’ current president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, invited Nasheed to head the country’s negotiating delegation at the Katowice talks, which are aimed at agreeing rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

With less than two days until the conference is formally scheduled to end, delegates are still grappling with many issues - not just how the accord will be implemented - including finance, strengthening emissions cuts and monitoring action.

A draft, more concise text of the deal should be available later on Thursday but it is expected to still be laden with brackets for wording to be decided on and gaps.

Since last addressing a U.N. climate conference in 2009, Nasheed said he had been deposed in a coup, imprisoned and then forced into exile.

“But almost 10 years since I was last at these climate negotiations, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed. We are still using the same old, dinosaur language,” he said.

“Carbon emissions are rising, rising and rising and all we seem to be doing is talking, talking and talking.”

Reporting by Nina Chestney and Bate Felix; Editing by Gareth Jones