Hon. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh
His Excellency Jose Maria Figueres, Former President of Costa Rica,
Ms. Connie Hedegaard, The European Union Commissioner for Climate Action
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former President of Norway
Other distinguished panelists and personalities, ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to begin by extending my appreciation to Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh for hosting this event and inviting me to participate in this important discussion.
I applaud the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh for advancing the goals of this important Forum to a greater level during the chairmanship of Bangladesh.
Let me also express our pleasure, and thank His Excellency Jose Maria Figueres, the former President of Costa Rica for attending this important event. We further appreciate the initiative taken by Costa Rica to lead the Forum as its next Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Climate Vulnerability Forum is a platform very close at heart for me, since its inaugural inception in the Maldives in 2009.
If there is a ground zero for observing and monitoring the impacts of a changing global climate, that would be the Maldives.
There is no country on this planet that is safe from climate change; each country faces threats, whether they are related to their ecosystems, prosperity or livelihood. To assume that countries are safer, because of their geography or terrain, or because of their economic might is a misnomer when it comes to the issues of climate change.
What we go through today is the image of your future. As it was well put in the CVF’s first Declaration adopted in 2009, the fate of the most vulnerable will be the fate of the world. It is only a matter of time before every country ends up having to step in our shoes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me give you an image of the present situation in the Maldives:
First there is the danger of habitat loss. Land loss and beach erosion are accounted as major impacts the country faces. Over 80% of the land area in the Maldives is less than 1 meter above the mean sea level. As of today, about 50% of all islands in the Maldives are experiencing severe coastal erosion. The need to divert resources from productive investments to efforts to protect valuable coastal property from erosion significantly holds back the Maldives economy, which brings me right to the next severe stress we are facing: the danger of economic stress.
The coral reefs and seas are our life line. Our largest economic sectors, tourism and fisheries, which contribute more than 80% to our GDP, entirely depend on coral reefs and seas. Corals are very sensitive to changes in ocean temperature. The tourism sector, which represents at least one third of the total economy, is strongly dependent on holiday-makers, most of whom engage in diving and snorkeling. Any deterioration in the natural eco-systems in the Maldives would therefore naturally have damaging economic consequences.
In the fisheries sector, catches from a certain type of tuna, which represents Maldivians’ main daily source of protein, significantly decreased since 2005. If the observed global temperature continues, the total disappearance of the Maldives’ coral reefs is almost inevitable. This threat to the survival of the coral reefs is seen as a threat to our largest economic sectors.
Growing water stresses are a major problem for the Maldives. Salt water intrusion into groundwater damage crops and cause damage to properties. About 24-32 % of the households from selected wells show salinity. The groundwater contamination together with extended droughts represents a severe danger to the agricultural sector in the Maldives.
In addition to that, there has been a shortage of rainwater. About 49-63% of the households experience shortages of rainwater. Alone in 2012, the government of the Maldives had to supply desalinated water to about 87 islands.
Extreme weather events, which will become roughly twice as common in the first half of this century, do have significant negative impact on the transport sector, which will endanger the Maldives’ food security.
Moreover, health risks due to climate change are rising: data shows that there is a continuing increase of diarrheal and vector-borne diseases during the rainy season in the Maldives which become more extreme every year as well.
These challenges are just examples of the possible impact of climate change. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we work together starting today toward helping the environmentally vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and mitigate its consequences successfully, so that tomorrow, the entire planet can be ready to take the appropriate measures and rely on a proven and successful structure.
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,
Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. It is an issue we must address with one voice, as we are all on the same sinking boat.
We need scaled-up national, international and regional efforts, especially to increase the financial resources in addressing climate change adaptation to help the most vulnerable countries, as they generally are the States with the least resources to address such a large issue. In addition to financial resources, we need capacity-building and technology.
Even during these turbulent economic times, we cannot afford to delay the necessary environmental actions; climate change will not wait for our economies to recover. We call for all States to follow the steps taken by my government toward more sustainable development and a green economy, as we strive to become a low-carbon economy in the coming years ahead.
The Climate Vulnerability Monitor since its inaugural launch by the former President Nasheed of the Maldives in 2010, the founding chair of the CVF, has been an indispensable tool in bringing together a comprehensive compilation of information and research from around world.
It has shaped policy-makers approach to assess the seriousness of situations in our island nations, and it has brought together communities in their shared fears and common concerns. Finally, it has brought into context the almost perplexing array of different vulnerabilities, faced by different communities in different parts of the world.
We hope these are lessons and experiences we can all learn from and that it would encourage countries, civil society, international organizations and academia to take a holistic approach to deal with the real dangers faced by the most vulnerable countries.
As we move on with the important task of carrying out the work of CVF, I wish to recognize the collaboration of Madrid-based international research organisation DARA, without which our efforts would not lead us to where we are today. I also wish to thank our important international partners for their generous assistance and contributions in ensuring that our collective efforts in promoting the vulnerability of these countries, do not sink.