Excellencies, ladies and gentleman
I am greatly privileged to participate in this event and thank the organisers for offering this chance to our country.
Frequent, prolonged, intense disasters and extreme events are becoming a common phenomenon in Maldives as well as elsewhere, and we all suffer at an unprecedented scale debilitating already challenged economies. Given our ecological fragility and structural vulnerabilities, Maldives and other SIDS stand to bear the greatest impacts of climate change and these challenges ultimately translate into social and economic and human rights hurdles for which we do not have the resources to adequately address. Maldives plays a crucial and continuing role in strengthening the multilateral, rule based climate architecture in addressing the issue of climate change and would like to see concrete progress, not merely in the negotiations but also in tackling climate change in practice.
Maldives has made many pledges: such as becoming carbon neutral, making the country a biosphere reserve, phasing out ozone depleting elements and religiously abiding by international convention requirements as best as it could. Along with us, other developing countries have also shown substantial flexibility and good faith in abiding by all rules, in the negotiations and have agreed to new obligations that are not required by the Convention. This needs to be met by the developed world to ensure that the issue of climate change be addressed in a collective, equitable and holistic manner. Our tiny country along with all other SIDS have been urging for aggressive mitigation actions by major historic emitters, while not forgetting critical climate adaptation requirements and at the same time calling upon emerging economies to adapt more sustainable growth strategies.
Our vulnerability to climate change and its inherent link to our survival demands mitigation and adaptation, to be adequately integrated within the global climate governance regime and infrastructure adaptation requirements. However, the funds allocated for adaptation is rarely available although adaptation should constitute as being of equal importance as that of mitigation and should proceed in tandem with each other. For a country like Maldives it makes no sense to spend only on mitigation, when all efforts of conservation in that regard is eroding away.
A simple example is an integrated waste management facility built from multilateral funds, to serve as a pilot and training grounds which as we speak is literally eroding away, while consultants sitting at a desk somewhere with no concept of what we are talking about insist on extending the facility rather than using the balance money to offer coastal protection to preserve the facility. Sadly our suggestions of the importance of coastal protection for our islands are being viewed as infrastructure development and funds towards that is being refused. For us SIDS, coastal protection measures is not infrastructure development excellencies. It is a matter of survival. As we stand on the side and do our best to survive, it is sad to see that the collective will to address the issues of climate change is still missing. Often people in decision making positions have no clue of our reality and as such, our needs are often misunderstood and opportunities bypass us and that is reflected very well in the decisions taken by international bodies. Furthermore, even if funds are allocated, it is extremely challenging to access these funds in a timely and responsive manner and what is left through the bureaucratic process is neither at the scale required, nor at the magnitude needed to address the numerous and pressing issues.
As we look towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post 2015 development agenda, it is important to consider the lessons learnt as we move forward. It is our obligation to make sure that Sustainable development and climate change are jointly addressed and not viewed in isolation of each other but rather as a continuation of a global development project. We know that sustainable development for us is only possible if climate change adaptation is effectively integrated into broader national sustainable development plans, policies, projects, and programs. In particular, it should build upon and consolidate the gains made through MDGs whilst also refining the entire process. Urgent and timely attention should be given to linkages with the MDGs, which are central to reducing poverty and enhancing economic and social development by 2015.
We also must remember that there are conceptual and practical flaws associated with the design and implementation of the MDGs, and how international communities gauge the development levels, particularly as it relates to SIDS. The utilisation of aggregated global data in the MDG formulation, and use of indices such as GDP per capita towards graduation from LDC status for example, fail to adequately reflect the complex interactions between the geographical challenges, environmental resources and social issues. Such flawed and geographically disassociated measures miss the subtle nuances of the situation and the ground reality of SIDS and thus stand as a danger to our development and progress made on MDG’s.
How can a country like Maldives stay safe from natural disasters? How can we, address the challenges of constant climate change battles, our smallness and remoteness and yet build strong resilient communities, if development assistance is wrenched away from us based on distortive measures? How could assistance stop when our islands, 80% of which lie not more than 1 meter above sea level, are fast eroding due to lack of proper coastal protection; when our rain water is polluted due to trans-boundary pollution; when our ground water is contaminated due to salinity and contaminants from sewerage; when we do not have water and sanitation facilities available to even a third of our remote islands; when we spend 36% of GDP on importing fossil fuel; over 30 million on emergency relief for water; when our trade debts stand at 24% and external debt at 43%; when our national deficit is over 20% of GDP? If concessionary financing stop to vulnerable countries like us, we will slide back on the progress we have made and will fall into developmental regression. You will leave us behind as the world move on. What is at stake here excellencies is not just small countries or small land masses, but a way of life, rich cultures and proud histories.
Climate change is a global problem excellencies, and addressing global challenges require global efforts and as such, such fragmentations run the danger of pushing our planet into deeper problems. Now is the time to redouble our efforts and renew our commitments and obligations. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be the basis in this regard. The Kyoto Protocol should be maintained as the central pillar of the climate regime, and should ensure that all developed countries meet their existing commitments and take on new ones commensurate with the science. It is disappointing to note that commitments of funding such as The Copenhagen and Cancun texts promise of ‘new and additional’ funding, above the conventional Official Development Assistance and ‘predictable funds’ have fallen short of expectations. How the developed world meet these commitments and targets should then inform and form the benchmark against which other major economies should increase their efforts.
While the argument continues with no convincing results we struggle to divert our fiscal resources for national adaptation needs which then drains the national budget and directly affects our sustainable development goals. As a result national actions remain largely fragmented and disparate. There is then a need to increase the predictability of funds to developing states, particularly SIDS, to ensure that an integrated and holistic approach can be utilized to address the issue of climate change adaptation within the context of sustainable development.
Sadly, in general, the human solemnity of the problem is heightened by the fact that climate change and its consequential effect is dramatically and unduly affecting the already vulnerable, poor and marginalized people, highlighting predominant susceptibilities and spreading more inequalities, intensifying existing social inequity at both the local and international level. It is imperative a pool of trained human resources are developed but this is a task that is largely beyond the financial capacity of small island states. Conflicts are arising over our inability to meet the increasing variety of climate change related demands and these consequences are translating not only to economic, political and societal costs and implications, but to probable cost of lives and it is fast emerging as a key challenge to Fundamental Human Rights of our people in all fronts.
Through the active engagement and participation and the political will of all actors concerned we must continue to make progress toward setting a global goal to abide by all conventions set to protect our environment and combat climate change. The urgency to address climate change forces Maldives to urge international community to device a system where one or two countries cannot stop the rest of the world take the morally right decision especially if we are to prevent major environmental, economic and social disruptions. We call on the international community to prioritize on what is dividing us, come to a compromise, exercise flexibility and establish a common understanding before it is too late. In the end when nature unleashes its power we are all helpless. So let us do something while we still have a chance. Let us not go into history as a generation whose indecisive and skeptical actions destroyed a future which otherwise could have been better.