Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
At the outset, I would like to thank Ambassador Laloniu, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and High Representative Utoikamanu and Assistant Secretary General Khiari of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs for giving me the opportunity to address this important briefing.
More than a decade ago, I informed the Human Rights Council, of the Maldives’ decision to submit a draft resolution to the Council, entitled “Human Rights and Climate Change”, which became known as HRC Resolution 7/23. The resolution was based on the outcome of the Male’ Declaration 2007, where Small Island Developing States called for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a detailed study into the effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights and present it to the Council.
At the 10th Session of the HRC, the OHCHR presented its report which brought to the attention of the world, the relationship between the environment and human rights; implications of the effects of climate change for the enjoyment of specific rights, including the rights of vulnerable groups; and human rights implications of climate change-induced displacement. These findings resulted in a change of perception at the UN towards climate change.
Since then, I have also taken message of the climate-security nexus to the United Nations Security Council, three times in the last 14 years – joining our fellow islands in the Pacific who first drew attention to it. I have worked alongside you to highlight the devastating impact that climate change has on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the globe; in particular, the devastation vulnerable communities are bound to face due to the limited adaptive capacity to address the consequences of climate change.
We Maldivians are connected to our environment – our lives and livelihoods depend on the beaches we walk on and the oceans we dive in. If the balance of either factors tip, we will be homeless. This is not just our lived reality. It stands true for all Small Island Developing States who are susceptible to natural disasters because of their small size, isolated nature and ecological fragility. We lack the resilience to deal with the rising incidence of natural disasters due to climate change. The security of our nations and citizens, depends on how the international community as a whole address the issues of climate change.
Climate mitigation and adaptation is absolutely necessary to avoid potential risks to peace and security. This is particularly relevant now, as climate impacts are more acutely felt together with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reshaping the development pathway through climate resilient policies is possible only if we reshape the current international finance architecture, to allow the fiscal space for small, vulnerable economies to effectively address environmental challenges. We must ensure the provision of predictable, adequate and sustainable climate finance. The World Bank President’s recent announcement that their new Climate Change Action Plan is designed to deliver twin goals of reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity, by helping countries fully integrate climate and development gives us all immense hope. And as we look towards COP26, a more ambitious collective finance goal must be our priority to ensure a climate-resilient future.
We are now five years on from the adoption of the Paris Agreement, and what we need is higher levels of ambition across all major emitters and all sectors of the economy, to stay on track towards the long-term temperature goal of 1.5 degrees. We require climate financing, investment in renewable energy, improved energy efficiency and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.
Maldivians may be powerless in unilaterally preventing the adverse effects of climate change, but that does not mean we will simply accept our fate. In December 2020, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced our intention to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 at the Climate Ambition Summit.
We are also rethinking our development paradigm to achieve the future we want. President Solih’s administration has introduced significant legislative and policy measures to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Under these measures the use of single-use plastics will be completely phased out by 2023.
At the international front, we advocate for the realisation of the right to a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment. As a bold effort by the core group on human rights and environment, we amplified our advocacy collectively, through a joint statement at the 46th Session of the HRC, the possible recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and are working towards a proclamation at the September session of the Human Rights Council in 2021.
We also support the creation of a new mandate on climate change to help promote rights-based climate actions at the Human Rights Council. We mean to lead by example. Addressing Climate Change does not only benefit Small Island Developing States, or the states most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It benefits everyone.
We are seeing habitat loss, shifting of climatic conditions, coral reef degradation, change in continental ice sheets and length of frost-free seasons increasing. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million migrants displaced due to climate change. It is also argued that polar bears, the green sea turtle known as ‘Velaa’ in Maldives and the African elephant are but a few of the animals that might go extinct.
Multilateral cooperation and solidarity are more important than ever to address these important issues. And this is why I commit to working shoulder to shoulder with all of you, in finding common solutions. Today, understanding the consequences of climate change is not rocket science, so I ask our friends in the developed world, “what part are you willing to play in this?”.
I thank you.