Thank you. I want to thank you all for joining us today. I especially want to thank Vice President Deen and his commitment to climate adaption and resilience.
Where you are sitting right now is one of the oldest and best resorts in the Maldives and without Deen’s commitment to tourism as well as his constant work of improving our national infrastructure, we would not be here today.
Everyone here today represents the future of climate change around the world. While the world agrees that pollution and emissions are harmful and should be reduced, all of us in this room know that we need to do more and at a faster pace. We are living in a world of extreme weather. Entire cities flooding, major international hubs shut down for several days without the capacity to recover quickly. In a global economy where our economies are tied together, what happens in Miami eventually impacts the Maldives and vice versa.
I would like to share a brief scenario with you. You have flown halfway across the world with your family for a vacation. You planned the trip for a year – the tickets, the hotel, the food and the activities. After two days a storm hits. There is no air conditioning. There is massive flooding, your cellphone does not work and it will take you several days to get a flight out.
This is not a story about Maldives but another group of islands called the New York City. And this is a scenario that played out less than a year ago during Storm Sandy. The point is, climate waits for no one.
We are morally obliged to not wait for the next storm or the next tsunami to build the capacity and infrastructure that our country needs. We have an obligation as a global community to adapt and build resilience plans for extreme weather events which include weather detection systems to alert islands of incoming weather; tourism education; and, retrofitting homes and hotels to create resilience structures and transportation capacity.
I urge you today as you meet during this conference, to think about extreme weather. To think about not only tourists but also the local people who support them.
Maldivian people who are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change are the ones who can least afford to do so and who have done least to cause the problem.
The lack of action on adaptation not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of our people, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development, economic growth and resilience of our islands. Adaptation is both a practical need and a moral imperative.
Climate change adaptation is mainstreamed and integrated into policy and planning processes of tourism development. There is a need to establish and implement Climate-smart planning and investment practices in the sector.
Tourism investments should follow approaches that take into account costs and benefits of climate change adaptation options. Evaluate uncertainties and equity in distributional impacts of adaptation. The cost of taking adaptation action now will be much less than the cost of dealing with the consequences later. Tourists will adapt to climate change and our resorts must do so. Tourists will go where they feel comfortable, find tranquility, natural beauty, nice weather. If we lose our coral reefs, our beaches, tomorrow we may also lose our tourists.
Sustainability of the Maldives tourism industry depends both on the ability to adapt the natural beauty of our surroundings and effectively manage natural disasters induced by climate change.
This workshop, I understand, is designed to discuss climate change adaptation measure in the tourism sector, explore and integrate approaches towards realizing a society that lives not only in harmony with the environment, but also take appropriate measures to adapt to climate change.
Deliberations of this workshop will focus on the findings of the consultants who have undertaken various studies and will prioritize key climate change risks to the tourism industry, analyze the impacts of priority areas and sectors with a special focus on tourism’s associated value chains including agriculture, fisheries, food security, energy security, health, water, wastewater and solid waste disposal.
Also this workshop will review national policies, plans and practices to identify good entry points to address cross-sectoral issues, and possible ways forward to mainstream climate change adaption in the tourism sector.
It is very encouraging that a project of this nature is being undertaken at this critical time. I would like to thank UNDP and global environment facility for supporting Maldives government. It signifies the need necessitated by climate change, and support Maldives tourism industry to better prepare and respond to natural disasters through proper adaptation measures. The success of the project will depend on the success in integration with others, relevant strategic planning processes and initiatives in the industry and nationally.
Thank you for organizing this conference. Let us act before it’s too late.