Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a pleasure to be here, especially among people who are, I believe and hope, likeminded.
We all understand that our planet is under stress. We all understand that we have a very small window of opportunity to find a solution. For the Maldives, the challenges are very present. It is not an issue in the future. For us climate change is here and it is happening. We have serious issues with coastal erosion. We have more than 16 islands where we have to relocate people from their islands to other safer islands. We have serious issues of water contamination. Water table is being contaminated increasingly and we have water issues on 70 islands. In the worst case scenarios, we have to desalinate water on these islands and it is extremely expensive.
With water shortages, we have food security issues and of course other health issues. We also have a very pressing issue on dwindling fish stock. We usually fish about 120,000 tons of tuna a year. We have a manageable stock of 400,000 tons. But during the last 6 – 9 years, we have not been able to reach our stock catch at all. This year we will be lucky if we end up 70,000 tons.
As I understand and in my mind the science is very clear. It is happening and there is no doubt about it. Sceptics still argue about the science, but if you come to the Maldives and look at us at the face and tell us that this is not happening, then you might have some credibility. But here for us, we don’t have the luxury of the debate anymore. This is real and we better get going and do something about it.
We believe in human ingenuity. We believe that it is possible for us to work against the odds and succeed. We are here in government because of that. Three to four years before, no one, no one in our own country would have actually believed that the old regime would change and that we will be in government. We did that against odds. We have another challenge now and that is saving the world. We believe that sitting around and complaining about it will not provide us with solutions, but we will have to move forwards and we will have to do it our self. We will have to brace for what we have and it has to come from our own people and from our own resources.
One of my experiences in the last two years is that international financing mechanisms, protocols and conventions will take a fair amount of time for us to settle down and be able to use them. But still we don’t have the time to waste. So we have decided that the Maldives will go carbon neutral and I am so glad that one of our best entrepreneurs are one of our very strong believers and in fact someone who is willing to demonstrate that this is so possible and doable.
We hope to see Soneva Fushi carbon neutral within the ext few years and that would be the first island in the Maldives that would become carbon neutral. That is if the government cannot beat Sonu and get a few inhabited islands carbon neutral before him. Aslam is working very hard and we think we can beat Sonu.
We also feel that equating carbon emission and productivity is just extremely silly. It is possible to find a low carbon development strategy and it is possible for us to find this strategy to be economically viable and financially feasible.
We want to be an example. We want to tell the rest of the world, ‘look it is possible to develop, it is possible for us to have a better life and it is still possible for us to have this planet’. We believe that these solutions are available. We do not think that we should be waiting anymore. We do believe in all the planning, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. But I feel that it is so important now to move forward with whatever technology that is available.
We are in the process of achieving that and we have two very big wind projects in the south. We also have a substantial solar project in the middle of the country. Our country is fairly long. It is 800 miles. You’d be surprised by the changing whether patterns in different atolls and different parts of the country. So we do not know if a single solution or a single answer is available for the Maldives’ problems. It must be a hybrid solution. We will have to be able to include all sorts of things. To start with, we all understand that we require a building code. We need to be more responsible in our energy consumption and we need to build in to our building codes many environment friendly features. The government is in the process of coming out with that building code and we will hopefully table it in the parliament in the next year. So that we will, then therefore, be able to come up with all the new buildings in this country be up to a certain standard where energy consumption is safely monitored and safely managed.
We never believed that Maldives going carbon neutral is going to save the world. Not at all. But at least we will know that we’ve done the right thing, even in death. We will at least be satisfied and we will at least be able to say that we have done our part and it was others who didn’t. It is our own personal responsibility to change our ways and how we behave and how we live and therefore, we will do that and we hope that this will become an example to others.