Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations,

 Compassionate Data: The Role of Data for Climate Change Resilience


Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentleman,

I wish to thank the organisers for the opportunity to address such a diverse group of people here this evening.  I am pleased to share some perspectives of a small island state, the Maldives from where I come from, a country, which as you all know, is at the frontlines of climate change.

As most of you may aware, the Maldives is currently facing extraordinary economic and developmental challenges than no other Maldivian generation has ever had contemplated before. Climate change is a threat to the very existence of our home, the low-lying small coral islands of the Maldives; it is a threat to our society; and it is a threat to our economy, which is based on tourism and fisheries. Maldives is among the most vulnerable, yet it is also the least equipped to deal with the projected impacts of climate change and associated sea level rise.

The extraordinary challenge before the present generation of Maldivians is to make the Maldives resilient and adaptable. Looking at a short-term 10-year plan, it is envisaged that USD 1.5 billion needs to be invested collectively on adaptation and mitigation. A small number to some countries or companies perhaps, but a huge number to a small developing country like ours.

Tourism and Fisheries are the cornerstones of our economy. These activities rely heavily on our coral reefs, which are major tourist attractions and nurseries for our fisheries, in addition to being the physical foundations on which the Maldives is built on. Climate Change brings stronger and more frequent large-scale coral bleaching events. Also Oceans absorb about 30% of anthropogenic CO² that contributes to Ocean Acidification, hampering the ability of our coral reefs to develop their skeletons.

Our recent analysis and prediction of the climate scenarios indicate that the temperatures are on a rising trend of 0.2 degrees a decade and the projections indicate that there could be a rise of 1.8 degrees by 2050 compared to today. The gap between the northeast monsoon and southwest monsoon (which are the only two seasons in the Maldives) have over the years become more prominent, and are further predicted to increase. The current sea surface temperatures are increasing at a rate of 0.14 degrees and projections indicate that it could rise by 2 degrees by 2050. This would have a significant impact on our fragile coral reefs and thus on the existence of these islands. The extreme rainfall events are on the increasing trend with a tremendous increase in the magnitude. The extended dry periods are on the high during northeast monsoon. This adds the stress on the availability of fresh water supply and the government was compelled to provide potable water to outer islands accounting to roughly US$30 million during the past 7 years.  The sea levels are on the rising trend at a rate of 3mm a year. Inundation due to this puts the coastal infrastructure and people lives at stage.

Projections about our future are extremely bleak. While communities cannot adapt to or mitigate these impacts without first having the understanding of how exactly they will be affected, it is not the case in the Maldives. Annual sea swells, extreme weather patterns and rising temperatures and associated effects are already happening. We don't need more data to prove climate change is real. But we do need data to prove how much of an impact climate change would have on our communities and our way of life. Maldives remains deeply concerned on the scientific findings due to adverse effects of climate change on low-lying island states as my own and we believe that science and fact based, informed decisions should be the basis for making climate change policy across the globe.

Maldives is a small island nation: which is a real victim, but is contributing negligibly to the global warming. But as a member of the international community we believe that this is a global issue that requires a collective action from international community to mitigate. Climate change knows no boundaries, does not differentiate between the rich and the poor. We are firm believers that each and every one of us has a responsibility to take action based on principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities and to their country context.

We are extremely heartened to see the outpouring of global support towards climate action. We hope that this support will propel the leaders of all countries to take bold, pragmatic and sustainable steps towards addressing the very real threat of climate change.

Thank you.