In this era of the Anthropocene, the major determinant in climate health and the earth’s well-being is human activity. It is up to us whether we harness our scientific knowledge and technological prowess for destructive ends, that yield short term profit, or to implement sustainable development strategies that are viable in the long term. These were the central themes of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s remarks, delivered virtually at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on September 30.

At the Summit, the President highlighted that the Maldives takes its climate commitments seriously, and that it will continue to engage with our global partners to preserve biodiversity and address the climate emergency. That is why last year, the President mentioned, the Maldives’ presented its Climate Resilient Island Initiative on the sidelines of the 74th General Assembly. He reiterated that this initiative provides a model that other small island states can use to develop sustainably, by conserving eco-rich areas, phasing out single-use plastics, and rapidly transiting to renewable energy.

He also shed light on the Maldives’ ongoing partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, a global alliance of ocean experts dedicated to growing blue economies and preserving the ocean’s health. The Maldives has been working with the coalition to conduct scientific expeditions that will inform our blue economic policies and maritime spatial plans going forward, so that our development occurs without compromising our natural assets.

The President emphasized that the Maldives is deeply concerned by plastic pollution, especially in the ocean. He cited the alarming fact that over 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Such concerns are what led us to become a founder and co-chair of the Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution, and why, as the President mentioned, the Administration is committed to delivering on its pledge to phase out single use plastic by the year 2023.

While concluding, the President called on all to be more respectful towards nature, and to heed a key lesson of this pandemic. Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease to which humanity was exposed by our continued disrespect for nature's boundaries. He expressed his conviction that if we do not do right by our earth and become better stewards of nature's gifts, we will face similar and possibly worse consequences in the future.