Your Excellencies President Lee, President Jagdeo, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We gather here today to confront the greatest challenge the world has ever known.

The decisions that we take, this decade, will set the course of our planet for the next hundred thousand years.

Other leaders, at other times, have faced momentous decisions.

Caesar had to cross his Rubicon.

Churchill had to stand and fight Hitler's armies.

Gorbachev let the Berlin Wall come tumbling down.

Those were battles of power and conquest, but mere sideshows compared to what is at stake now.

Today we are one people, one species, facing the threat of annihilation because our common home is in danger.

This is not like signing a pledge, or drawing up a manifesto.

This changes all the ground rules.

This changes everything.

Here is the challenge as I see it.

We are a world of seven billion people.

We will be a world of nine, maybe ten, billion by mid-century.

All these people are human beings with the right to live and flourish with dignity and without want.

In my view the provision of basic needs like food, water and shelter is an absolute human right.

But modern life is about more than basic needs.

Economic growth is giving people in developing countries access to First World lifestyles.

People want cars.

People want fridges.

People want to eat more meat.

People want the choice to be consumers in a world of plenty.

The global economy is delivering that choice.

This progress should be celebrated.

The Maldives is graduating from being a least developed country.

There have been no protests by citizens wanting to retain our LDC status.

No-one has ever rioted in favour of austerity, and I doubt anybody ever will.

Providing for nine billion people, who demand more of everything, would be a challenge at the best of times.

But our planet is already showing signs of great strain.

We have enough food for everyone, but the cost of producing it is that some of the world's great rivers no longer reach the sea.

In other areas, pollution and agricultural runoff is causing oceanic dead zones, covering tens of thousands of square kilometres.

I come from a country of fishermen.

We face a global fisheries crisis.

We fish sustainably and our fishing grounds are healthy.

But because many target species are migratory overfishing elsewhere is placing pressure on our fish stocks.

This is just one aspect of a wider crisis in biodiversity, which is now causing the Earth's sixth mass extinction.

Even far out in the Indian Ocean like we are, our sun still dims for half the year.

It dims because the Asian Brown Cloud drifts south from the sub-continent and shrouds our skies with a veil of pollution.

The message is clear: the planet cannot support our current population and lifestyles, let alone those of future projections.

Some writers say that a crash is coming.

Some warn that much of the world’s population will soon die off.

Some claim we have passed the point of no return.

But I reject this talk of doom and collapse.

To my mind it is just an excuse for inaction.

I prefer to place my faith in human ingenuity.

We are called Homo sapiens for a reason.

We have all the tools at our disposal to solve these challenges and to leave the world a better place for future generations.

We just need to use these tools, and use them intelligently.

There is no room today for comfortable certainties, or anti-technological posturing.

I support the renaissance of nuclear power, even though this will anger green campaigners.

We need to go into the future with our eyes open, facing forwards not backwards.

But we have one further very great problem.

The structure of the global economy is not fit for purpose.

Fixing it is the first challenge we must set ourselves, on which success in all else depends.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in the power of markets.

I believe the pursuit of profit is a noble cause.

I believe that an open economy best delivers the needs and wants of humanity.

Centrally planned economies fail.

That is why I am privatising state-owned assets in the Maldives, including the airport and utilities.

But market economies do not exist in a social and political vacuum.

The market is a social institution, a set of relationships guaranteed by the state.

This market must be properly regulated to ensure an efficient and equitable outcome.

In some areas, markets fail.

Such was the case with the financial meltdown, where market deregulation led to unnecessary risk taking.

This is also the case with climate change.

Lord Stern called climate change the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.

We look upon the Soviet Union as a monumental economic failure.

Climate change makes our own capitalist system look nearly as inadequate.

Consider this:

Conventional economic theory considers the atmosphere a public good.

That means anyone can dump carbon dioxide in the air without paying a price.

Because the air is a public good, which belongs to no-one, conventional economics considers it valueless – whereas in truth it is priceless.

This is not just a careless oversight by our economic sages.

It is institutionalized insanity.

It is the height of madness that something on which we all depend – the atmosphere – should be considered to have no economic value.

Climate change is also a market failure because of the displacement of costs and benefits.

Those who bear the burden of climate change are not those who reaped the benefits of burning fossil fuels.

Some big oil companies are today the most profitable corporations on the planet.

The oil companies earn millions of dollars a minute producing products that are destroying our planet.

These companies make enormous profits because they use the atmosphere as a free dumping ground.

We used to think that nobody had to pay for this pollution.

But already it is Maldivians, and other vulnerable people, who are paying the price.

It is our homes that are being washed away.

It is our coral reefs that are threatened.

It is our country whose future is in doubt.

We pay the price for other people's profits.

This is the real cost of climate change.

If this cost could be quantified in monetary terms, the bill would be in the hundreds of billions.

But how do you put a price on the loss of an entire culture?

How do you quantify the destruction of a thousand year old civilisation?

Perhaps we should send a billion dollar payment demand to the fossil fuel companies.

It's a clear legal principle: if you damage an innocent party, you have to pay compensation.

But I would prefer to leave punitive damages for another day.

My priority is to tackle global warming before it becomes unstoppable.

I don't believe, as I stand here today, that my country is doomed.

My task is to ensure that the Maldives can flourish for another thousand years.

But to do this we must fix the economic system that created this mess.

First and foremost, we must bring into the market the externality of fossil fuel consumption.

This means putting a price on carbon – at a high enough rate to compensate for climate damages and to shift investments towards green technologies.

A price on carbon would also shift funds towards the protection of the world’s rainforests, the source of a tenth of annual emissions.

In my view protecting trees is more important than shutting down coal-fired power stations.

These forests are treasure troves of irreplaceable biodiversity.

We live in a global economy; therefore the price on carbon must also be global.

If only a handful of countries impose a carbon price, industries will simply relocate to countries that do not tax pollution.

I believe it is in everyone’s interest, in every country, to see a serious price on carbon.

And when we do, it will unleash tremendous change.

The market’s invisible hand will work its magic, allocating capital to cleaner technologies.

Renewable sources of power will become cheaper than fossil fuels.

Transport systems will move people around without polluting the air.

And pristine areas will become more costly to exploit and cheaper to protect.

And this will happen on a global scale, while the world economy continues to expand.

We will witness the most explosive change since the Industrial Revolution.

This green revolution will reshape geopolitics.

Countries that consume foreign oil will no longer have to transfer their wealth to fossil fuel producers.

New global companies will arise, taking advantage of huge new markets.

For companies at the cutting edge of this change, vast profits stand to be made.

I cannot understand why some nations are still holding back.

Some countries are still arguing that development means becoming dirtier and dirtier as they become richer and richer.

In the Maldives we have chosen a different course.

Under the Copenhagen Accord, we have committed to becoming the first carbon-neutral nation in the world.

We aim to achieve this by 2020.

Going carbon neutral isn't going to be easy.

No-one has ever drawn up a plan to decarbonise an entire country, and to do it so quickly.

We know that solar and wind will be the mainstays of our electricity provision.

But how can we get power on nights with no wind and days with no sun?

And how can we do this on an island-by-island basis, given that we have no national grid connecting all our population centres together?

This is where rhetoric meets hard engineering.

Our challenge is no longer political; it is technical.

Thankfully, we have been inundated with offers of help.

In both the north and south of the country, masts have been erected to gather data on wind speeds.

We are installing rooftop solar panels on buildings in our capital city, including my office, thanks to Japanese assistance.

There are also exciting new developments in the fields of marine renewables like tidal stream and ocean thermal energy.

I want the Maldives to be an open laboratory for the development of these ideas.

We have also started to see waste as a resource rather than something to get rid of.

Our rubbish is potentially a tremendously valuable source of energy on demand.

We have very few sewage treatment plants yet built.

So we are looking at developing plants that can produce biogas for each island.

Under the previous government we had only one big, state-owned electrical utility.

I have split it up into regional components.

Each utility is now looking for external partners to help produce energy in a carbon-neutral way.

Within a few years, we want to be able to switch off the diesel generators that currently supply our power.

If you invest in the Maldives you will be learning invaluable lessons.

The Maldives may be small.

But what we are attempting in the Maldives, will soon need to be done everywhere else.

No doubt we will make mistakes.

That is the cost of being pioneers.

But I want the Maldives to not just be the testing ground for the low-carbon revolution.

I want us to be the proving ground for the low-carbon revolution.

As the world gears up for COP16 in Mexico, I am here to say, we don't want any pollution rights.

The Maldives doesn't want equal rights to poison the atmosphere.

We don't intend to lobby for the right to pollute.

We don't want the right to burn carbon because we don't want to burn carbon.

Instead I believe that low-carbon development can be a recipe for growth and prosperity.

Make no mistake.

For the world to avoid potentially catastrophic warming, we need to see global carbon neutrality by mid-century.

So when the population hits the nine billion mark all our energy must be provided without fossil fuels.

And at the same time we must provide additional food and freshwater without further depleting biodiversity.

Scientists are now showing that this planet has boundaries.

Intuitively we have always known this.

I do not believe this knowledge represents a straitjacket on human growth and prosperity.

I believe it allows us to flourish indefinitely, rather than enjoying a short-term bonanza at the price of future disaster.

This is a time of change.

And change means uncomfortable uncertainties.

But change also means new opportunities opening up for those with the vision to exploit them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Maldives has recently undergone a transition from dictatorship to democracy.

We believe in the right to vote.

We believe in free speech.

We believe in the people’s right to choose their own government.

But we also believe in economic freedom…

… the right to own property…

… the right to accrue wealth from investments…

…the right to profit from entrepreneurship.

The market system has helped create the crisis we are in.

But it is the market that can help deliver the solutions.

It is dynamic and responsive.

It changes more rapidly than any government plan.

But the market needs to be guided by political leadership.

And political leadership is a precious commodity in today's world.

I appeal to you all to help deliver that leadership.

The world is heading for uncertain times, and the challenges we face today have no historical parallel.

But in adversity we find opportunity.

Your vision, you innovation, your businesses can help steer a better course.

It is true corporate leaders who take on the greatest challenges.

And so let us move forward with determination.

And let us commence this great undertaking.

Let us leave behind the dirty economy of the 20 Century.

And help build the clean global economy of the future.