Mr. Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
And a very good morning to you all.
It is a pleasure to be here, and I welcome this opportunity to both celebrate the diversity of life on our planet and to reaffirm our responsibility towards protecting it.
The Maldives, as an atoll nation, has some of the most unique biodiversity on our planet, spread out over 900,000 square kilometers of ocean, 300 square kilometers of land mass and over 1200 islands.
We have the privilege to host some of the richest biodiversity in the world, accounting for 5 percent of our planet’s coral reefs, and the 7th largest reef ecosystem in the world. Our seas are home to over a thousand fish species, two hundred species of corals, twenty species of whales and dolphins, and forty species of sharks.
Our livelihoods are dependent on the health of our natural resources. It drives our tourism industry and provides for our important sustainable fisheries sector. Our rich biodiversity is responsible for over 80 percent of our GDP and over 90 percent of our exports. Our natural environment and biodiversity not only serve as the backbone of our economy; they are also deeply connected to our culture and history.
For many years, small islands have sounded the alarm about the increasing and more intense extreme weather events. For too long, the call went unheeded, and now the planet is delivering a very clear message to us – from the recent hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to the devastating floods in Europe and China, and to the fires in Algeria, Greece and Canada – our heating planet is not mincing its words. Let there be no confusion – we are responsible for this; and we must take urgent action to address it.
The world we grew up in has changed, but our dependency on it remains the same. It is our duty to restore and repair the damage that we have inflicted on our home. Our lives and livelihoods depend entirely on it. There can be no achievement of the SDGs without ensuring the protection of our natural environment.
As leaders, we must make strong commitments to address climate change and protect biodiversity and to align our policies and economic strategies with these commitments.
The Maldives has taken ambitious measures to address the climate crisis. We have taken important steps to build our resilience to climate impacts, and have also committed to reducing our emissions by a quarter by 2030; and with sufficient support, we wish to accelerate our plan and achieve net-zero in a decade.
On biodiversity protection, our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan commits us to significantly restore biodiversity to many of our ecosystems. Through our work with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, we are in the process of formulating a marine spatial plan, which will allow for a more planned, and sustainable use of our common natural resources. We are also designating one island, one coral reef and one mangrove in each of our atolls as a protected area, thereby establishing over 70 protected areas in our national waters. In addition, three of our atolls have been declared as UNESCO biosphere reserves.
Maldives has also struggled with the issue of plastic waste management. Given our dependence on fisheries and on the health of our coral reefs, marine plastic pollution is a serious concern for the Maldives. Single use plastic release harmful components and chemicals into our oceans, soil, food, water, and created health hazards. Today, we estimate a 100 million tons of plastic waste circulating the ocean, bearing responsibility for the death of over 1 million marine animals annually.
Domestically, we have taken strong action. In September 2019, we announced our plan, which came into effect this June, to phase out single use plastics by 2023. But we know that domestic action alone is insufficient. This is why we also co-founded and co-chair the Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastics Pollution, here at the UN, and are an active member of the Global Ocean Alliance, where we have committed towards protecting 30% of our ocean in the coming years.
Mr. Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Concrete, ambitious action to protect, conserve, sustainably use and restore nature does exist, but effective global action requires consistent multilateral and multi-level engagement to reflect the genuine care and concern of our people for our land and waters. We must protect our environment and biodiversity, for if we do not, our very lives are at stake.
I thank you.