Your Excellencies, Prime Minister Spencer, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Maldives.
I would especially like to thank and welcome H.E. Dr. Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, a fellow member of the Alliance of Small Island States, for being with us today.
May I also thank the distinguished ministers from Colombia, New Zealand, Samoa, and Timor Leste; state ministers and deputy ministers from Costa Rica, Malawi and Tanzania, and special envoys from Indonesia and the Netherlands.
And allow me to express my gratitude to H.E. Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, and through him to President Calderon, for ensuring that Mexico, the incoming President of COP16, is represented here with us.
As I look around the room, it is clear that we have a gathering rich in talent and experience, which bodes well for the days ahead.
A little over seven months ago, we gathered in Copenhagen to try and thrash out a deal to save the world.
The Copenhagen Accord is a positive step forward.
It contains serious financial commitments from Western countries, for adaptation and green growth.
And, for the first time, developing countries pledged to reduce their emissions.
The Copenhagen Accord is not, however, the legally-binding, planet saving deal that we hoped for.
Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, it is striking how divided we were in Copenhagen.
We entered those negotiations in a hostile mood, and under a cloud of mistrust.
Given the atmosphere, it is not surprising that we failed to deliver the best possible outcome.
Seven months on, it is troubling that countries have still not overcome their differences.
Many people seem to accept it is normal, or even natural, to fight, bicker and squabble while the climate crisis worsens.
And yet, it is surely not normal to quarrel over the most important issue of our time.
Many people around the world have criticised their leaders for behaving like children.
But perhaps our critics give us too much credit.
If we took 191 children from each corner of the globe…
... if we explained the climate crisis to these children, I suspect they would act more sensibly than we do.
If we explained that unless we stop poisoning the Earth, countries will go extinct and millions will suffer, they would question why we argue, rather than co-operate.
If we told them we already possess the technological know-how to fix the problem, they might wonder why we don’t use it.
If we told those children that doing nothing costs us billions, while greening the economy creates new wealth; their bafflement would probably be complete.
Unfortunately, the world’s children did not call the shots at Copenhagen.
And I am told that COP16 falls during school term-time, so they won’t be able to help us in Mexico either.
So it falls once again to us, the representatives of governments, to do better.
I am sure that the disappointments of Copenhagen were a reflection of global realpolitik.
Different countries were behaving in ways that they felt served their national interests.
But I want to be clear about what realpolitik means in the context of climate change.
It means that vulnerable countries like the Maldives, are expendable.
I cannot accept this.
I cannot accept that we must disappear, so others can carry on polluting.
And I know that you are here because you cannot accept this logic either.
I know you believe we can reconcile development, with survival.
I know you want to bridge past divides, and move forward in a spirit of trust and cooperation.
I believe it is the ability to come together as friends, that is the great value of this Dialogue for Progressive Action.
Incredible as it might seem, this is the only forum founded with the express intent of understanding and bridging existing positions, rather than creating new ones.
It is the only forum that includes countries from each region of the world, big and small, rich and poor.
And it is the only forum premised on the belief that a mutually-beneficial solution to climate change exists - if we only look hard enough.
Over the past few weeks, I have often been asked what it means to be “progressive”.
To be progressive, you obviously have to be in favour of progress – of moving things forward.
In our context, however, I believe being progressive means something more.
To be progressive, we must be willing to listen to others.
We must be able to understand other people’s views, concerns and positions.
And we must be prepared to show flexibility on long-standing positions, and be innovative and imaginative.
That is the task facing this group over the next two days.
We must openly discuss each other’s positions and the rationales that underpin them.
We must explore areas of convergence.
And we must look at innovative ways to bridge our differences.
If we act in this way, I am sure that our leadership – your leadership – will be recognised by generations to come.
I wish I could stay here for the whole of the next two days.
Unfortunately, climate change is not the only challenge facing this country.
As many of you will know, we have serious political difficulties in the Maldives.
Elements within the parliament are at loggerheads with the executive, and this is stopping the country moving forward.
To my mind, the same principles that underpin our dialogue – honesty, understanding and cooperation – also hold the key to unlocking the domestic situation.
That is the task I will be engaged with over the coming days and weeks.
Our assignment this weekend is serious and challenging.
And I have a couple of concerns I wish to share with you.
I think we have a serious problem over the way we present climate change to the outside world.
I believe we need to view climate change not just as a challenge but also as an opportunity.
Cutting carbon should not be considered a burden that will destroy jobs and hamper economic growth.
Instead, going green should be seen as the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution.
This is an opportunity to improve things…
... to grow our economies in more sustainable ways…
... and to create wealth and employment.
A deal at Cancun should be viewed, not as an impediment to growth, but as a boost.
A deal must not be seen as a drag on development, but as a way of doing things better.
I am also concerned that people’s expectations are being lowered too much ahead of Cancun.
Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has been playing down our prospects of success.
After the disappointments of Copenhagen, managing expectations might be understandable.
But I am concerned that we are not managing, so much as minimising, expectations.
If we aim for a bare minimum, that is what we will get.
It may be tempting to see COP16 as just a stepping-stone - an opportunity to prepare the groundwork for agreement in South Africa.
But countries like the Maldives, at the climate change frontline, cannot accept this.
We cannot wait 2, 5 or 10 more years.
We cannot allow the Bali Process to become an environmental version of the WTO’s Doha Round.
So let me be clear: we must succeed in Cancun in fashioning an effective, fair and ambitious deal.
Politicians must show the leadership and commitment that was lacking in Copenhagen.
As always, we must be guided by the science, and the science is very clear.
To stop temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees, the world must cut emissions within the next couple of years.
Even the window for staying below 2 degrees is closing fast.
If we wait another decade, the 2 degrees window will shut forever.
We can do better than this.
And we must do better than this.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before you begin your discussions, I would also like to offer three broad thoughts:
Firstly, we must deal with the issue of trust.
As I mentioned earlier, deep divisions hampered progress at Copenhagen.
Today, confidence between the different parties remains a major concern.
I understand that re-establishing confidence in the system, and in each other, will not happen overnight.
But we must start in Cancun by reaching agreement across all core issues, especially the inter-related issues of mitigation, finance, and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification.
And I also believe the Cancun deal must include a periodic review mechanism to allow states to ratchet up their mitigation targets as trust improves.
Secondly, we must build on the Copenhagen Accord, not ignore it.
After Copenhagen many countries queued up to criticise the Accord.
I was personally involved in the negotiations that led to its drafting.
The Accord is imperfect, but it nevertheless represents a genuine attempt by countries to map out the broad contours of a deal.
We should not be satisfied with the Copenhagen Accord.
But nor should we sideline it, or pretend that COP15 never happened.
It is not the fault of the Accord, that the pledges entered into its annex are grossly inadequate.
All countries, led by the developed world and closely followed by the major emerging economies, share a responsibility for scaling-up their ambition.
And I believe that progressive countries should lead the way.
The Maldives has already stepped forward.
Under the Copenhagen Accord, we have announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2020.
Others in this room, such as Costa Rica, have taken similarly bold steps.
I encourage all of you to join us.
My third and final suggestion relates to finance.
It is always difficult to talk about money.
But to tackle the climate crisis, finance is crucial.
For developing countries to follow low-carbon growth, we need significant, predictable and accessible financial support.
This support must come from developed country partners and the carbon markets.
Without it, we simply cannot make the capital investments needed to transform our economies, however strong our political will.
Developed countries must demonstrate their good faith and lock in the financing commitments made in Copenhagen.
We must ensure that the fast-track finance starts to flow quickly.
And we must improve the functioning of the carbon markets – so that they work in the interests of the many, not the few.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have great hope for this meeting.
On the question of climate change, the world is too ready to fall back on old arguments, old positions and old concepts.
Today, we need a new approach based on new ideas and forward-thinking.
And that is the approach I am confident this Progressive Dialogue can provide.
I wish you every success.
So much depends on it.