H.E. Ms. Thilmeeza Hussain, Permanent Representative of the Maldives
at the High-level Side Event on
Scaling-up Energy Transition in Small Island Developing States
17 July 2019
Good Afternoon, Excellencies, Friends
I would like to thank Saint Lucia, Samoa and the UN-OHRLLS for their partnership in organizing this event.
I also wish to congratulate the OHRLLS on the launch of the policy brief on “Achieving SDG 7 in Small Island Developing States” which will pave the path for the Mid-Term Review of the SAMOA Pathway, later this year and implementing SDG’s in the SIDS.
Sustainability and climate are inextricably linked, all the more so today, than ever in human history.
Climate crisis that we face today is a manifestation of two centuries of unsustainable development without consideration of consequences for the environment, the economy or people, and it poses the greatest threat to our future generations.
Consequences of climate change have neared humanity dangerously and more so, for small island states. Coral bleaching, food shortages, water shortages, and extreme weather events are existential threats for island nations, hence it is imperative that as SIDS we address the issue of mitigation and adaption to climate change, and transition towards decarbonized economies.
Just a few months back, in May 2019, New York city resoundingly passed a legislation, its New Green Deal, the Climate Mobilization Act. This is possibly the single largest carbon reduction effort that will eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 2050, and ensure that all its electricity comes from carbon-free sources. The New Green Deal for New York City encapsulates the New Green Deal we envision for the world, and for us in SIDS- a transition from fossil fuel economies to decarbonized economies.
It in this context I also want to bring attention to the recent power outage in Manhattan, which brought the city to a standstill. While the blackout awakened the world to the reality of weak infrastructure and unpreparedness to address the risks of climate change, it also revealed the vibrancy and resilience of New Yorkers as they took to the streets to help people. This holds hope for a collabortive and better future.
This is our window of opportunity to act, to switch gears to renewable energy, to keep our islands safe from rising sea level, to strengthen the resilience of our economies, and to better the life of our people and our futures. The transition to sustainable energy should be a top priority, if we are to achieve the SDGs. I’d like to highlight three key building blocks that I think are extremely important, for successful energy transition in SIDS – strong political will, genuine partnerships and adequate finances. Along this line, let me share with you some examples from the Maldives.
The Maldivian President, H.E. Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced in his inauguration last year that the Maldives will not sacrifice our natural foundations in order to meet short term development goals. In fact, our development plans will pursue the concept of a “Jazeera Economy” or island economy which will center around preserving our natural environment, resources, and culture. This is why one of President Solih’s top priorities is to fight against climate change and to reduce the Maldives dependency on fossil fuels.
The Maldives is currently working with the Asian Development Bank, Climate Investment Funds and the European Investment Bank to implement a 1.1 Billion US dollar project, called ‘Preparing Outer Islands for Sustainable Energy Development (POISED)’. The project is spanned over 5 years and will transform the existing energy grids on the archipelago into a hybrid renewable energy system.
The Government of Maldives has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of UAE, to cooperate on a number of initiatives in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Even when we have the political will and have great partnerships, generating the necessary finances continues to be a major challenge in most SIDS. The Maldives hopes to alleviate some of our financing challenges through domestic resource mobilization. We are already implementing a “Green Tax” and the revenue accrued will be channeled via a “Green Fund” to initiatives protecting the environment. We believe that this fund will create more opportunities for private entities to invest in the Maldives and will incentivize their investments as well.
However, we all know that Governments alone cannot tackle the issue of renewable energy and sustainable development. We must mobilize and incentivize the private sector as well as all other stakeholders for this common endeavor.
As SIDS, our economic bases are small. Our resources and capacity are limited. Our finances are inadequate. But we have the political will to do what is necessary. We are open to genuine partnerships, and we are willing to work on domestic resource mobilization as much as we can. Now, we ask our partners to work together with us, to help us achieve our renewable energy goals, to make our vision in the SAMOA Pathway a reality, to tackle climate change in line with the Paris Agreement, and to achieve our sustainable development goals in the Agenda 2030.