Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,
On behalf of the government of Maldives, I thank Germany, Morocco and UN for this event. This gives us yet, another opportunity to stress on the importance of addressing climate change for our security, and for our very existence.
We have always been strong advocates in regards to climate change, even way before the world was aware that climate change is a security issue for national, international and human security. For a country like Maldives, with 80% of the country lying just about a meter above sea-level, taking climate change into account when deriving foreign and security policy is not an option, but a necessity for our security and our survival. With our greenhouse gas emission at 0.003%, Maldives remain amongst the least contributors to the causes of climate change, yet bitterly victimized, least defensible and on the frontline of climate change impacts. The irony is, our fate is being dictated not by us, but by the actions of certain bigger, more capable nations who are selectively blind to the threat they impose on us.
It was just yesterday I heard a statement by Secretary of State William Hague who said, “Climate change is 21st century’s biggest foreign policy challenge, similar to prevention of nuclear weapons.” And it was yesterday Dr Watson also showed scientific evidence of the grave danger we are in. IPCC’s predictions are almost on us way before its anticipated time. I am sure it is clear to all of you more than ever that we are bound by a common reality-the reality that climate change is here, affecting us leading us and directing us along a very bleak path of uncertainty if we do not take action quickly.
As a small island nation, just like other SIDS, Maldives have always known, and have been experiencing negative effects of climate change in varying degrees. We have been voicing out our concerns whenever and wherever possible. Most of those nations, whose actions matter most in controlling climate change impacts, are not taking the right actions. They often don’t even bother commenting. If at all we are lucky, they sometimes just give meaningless, vague statements just to say they have been part of the outcome document. Such acts are a violation of our human rights; our right to survive, our right to a cleaner, healthier environment, and our right to live and thrive, and our right not to be forced into possible refugee status and lose our identity.
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,
I would like the international community to be aware, of current situation in Maldives. While trans-boundary movement of pollutants contribute to air pollution, variability of precipitation events, frequency and intensity and length of storms, recurrent flooding and salt water intrusions into our fresh water lens is contaminating our water. These events are affecting quality, quantity and supply of ground and drinking water as well as our food security. Maldivians who rely on rainfall as the only potable water resource are suffering due to varying and unpredictable weather patterns, forcing us to supply desalinated water to about 120 islands during dry periods. Presently we are forced to allocate 27% of our national budgets to provide emergency relief. Maldives is experiencing increase in maximum mean temperatures, rising sea levels, frequent bursts of fierce winds, and unpredictable fluctuations in ocean currents, and ocean surges of frightening magnitudes.
Beach erosion is expected to become even more severe if predicted changes occur in weather patterns. Even at present, the government has identified 113 inhabited islands at various stages of serious erosion, and 43 islands in critical need of urgent adaptation measures, for which we require 42 million which we do not have. Some small islands have already been ravaged due to changes predicted by IPCC, and others are being seriously threatened.
Rising surface temperatures of the ocean is also threatening our coral reef system which not only acts as a defense mechanism against flooding, but through it enhances our tourism and fisheries which are the backbone of our economy. If we were to judge the fate of our reefs based on effects of Al-Nino events, and if the observed global trends continue, it will be a huge threat to our reefs and hence our economy, our livelihood and our security. Already certain type of tuna which is a daily source of protein to us in Maldives has decreased, and islands have disappeared.
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman
We are in the sorry state we are in right now, because of not anything we did, or do, but because of past actions and present irresponsibility of some states who feel that using tactics to reduce emission of harmful substances may hinder their progress. They are too stubborn to acknowledge they can progress and prosper even by using sustainable tactics. We in the Maldives have a 5 year investment plan to massively transform our energy sector and convert at least 20 of our islands to renewable energy generating at least 21 megawatts of electricity from solar and wind, 6 megawatts from waste and 551 tonnes of desalinated water daily as a byproduct. This plan would save us US$ 22million annually in diesel imports. As the first country to do so we have eradicated CFC’s well ahead of time and will also be the first country to time to phase out HCFC’s and ban import of related equipment.
If a poor island nation like Maldives is determined to change our policies and change our energy requirements to renewable and minimize the use of fossil fuels, why can’t the capable, resource rich giant nations do so? The irony is our actions are like a drop of water in a huge ocean. Our actions single handedly, would not have any concrete impact on the looming danger of climate change. A consolidated international action, perhaps driven by a binding international policy should be drawn to effectively address the issues.
Despite all these evidences of suffering and tireless effort by vulnerable states like Maldives, it disheartens us, that action at international level to address climate change is still insufficient. It highly concerns us that the collective mitigation pledges of some nation states are well below the levels required to hold back the increase in global temperature to well below the 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. These nations need to understand that it is immoral to continue with development at our expense. I urge the international community to be ethical, responsible and be aware that they are the reason we are suffering. I beseech them to collectively formulate and agree on appropriate policies, to assume responsibility and commit sufficient resources for adaptation and mitigation against climate change, and implement appropriate procedures to protect the environment and people affected, and hence assure us our security. Please be aware that climate change consequences translate not only to economic costs but probable cost of lives of small vulnerable states such as Maldives. It is unethical and morally wrong for governments not to act in the global interest, and ignore hard facts of climate change and become the reason why we may become just history. We need not become a statistic if global commitment is given that would translate into constructive sustainable actions. To all those nations who foresee the same fate as us, please do not be discouraged by inaction or lack of consensus and accept that it will not happen. To resign now would take us on a path of no return. So let us buckle up as a joint force and fight for our right to live in a healthy secure environment. Our fights will translate into global foreign and security policies that will grant us our wish.
Before I conclude, let me thank those nations who are fighting and advocating on behalf of those less fortunate like us, and showing to the rest of the world that adopting sustainable measures does not necessarily mean halting development. In fact those nations who are still refusing to acknowledge the grave nature of the consequences of climate change must realize, that development can continue even without threatening the already ailing environment.