Good Evening the President, Mary and everyone who is present here today,
I have two speeches I have one prepared by my office, and one prepared by the environment minister. I will try to see how best I can do this.
We come from small islands in the Indian Ocean, and we are just six feet above the sea, less than a meter actually not six feet and we are very, very delicate and precarious and the ocean is all around us and we practically live in the sea.
Most Maldivians are fisherman and they spend half their lives out in the ocean. The climate and the elements are never far away from us and therefore for us this has always been an important issue especially when the elements seem to overtake us.
We have recently seen the Indian Ocean tsunami, how big and damaging and devastating that it can be, and since then I suppose most of us have again refocused on how important it is for us to understand the elements, nature and the climate and also to see how we maybe able to fend against it.
I have come here, this is my second trip abroad this year, I have also more trips, I am also going to all sorts of places, but I thought that the Mary Robinson Foundation is a Foundation that is trying to do good and instead of going to the UN General Assembly I thought that this would be a better place to come. I understand, along with my Foreign Office and everyone else, that there are other, bigger as well as so many people around, but I thought this would be a better meeting so thank you very much for inviting me and I will give my best shot at this.
Whatever I say, I say because I believe it and there is no reason for me to be here than to simply speak out my part.
When we came into governance, when we were trying to win governance in the Maldives I was always told that was impossible, that I am fighting against odds and that it will never happen. I can see why you are smiling now. We are fighting against odds and it will never happen. After 30 years of dictatorship; by just singularly focusing on it, and doing things every day and consistently every day we have been able to succeed. We were able to galvanize our public for democratic change; we were able to form a political party, amend the constitution, have free and fair elections and have a smooth and peaceful transfer of government and not murder the previous President. In the past what we did was always to get rid of the previous President very effectively. But we thought we will try and see if we can live with the past. And it is difficult but we are doing it. All Maldivian leaders, whoever they are will always have to think about climate change and climate justice now.
When we came into government the government of Maldives was also ranked in the UNF CCC Process. Where the G77 seems to be on the one side and the developed countries were on the other side and of what I saw we were very busy pointing fingers at each other and saying that you did it and therefore you will have to mend it and worse, we didn’t do it so we should have the opportunity to do all that wrong as well. Now that in my mind is Annex 1 and Annex 2. The whole story of Kyoto; in my mind is this.
I’m sorry I don’t like it; I don’t think it is going to work and I believe we should get rid of it.
Both developing countries and developed countries have the responsibility.
Of course I understand of historical responsibility and I understand that we are suffering now is because of the West and all that development. But even if they all go to sleep tonight and we go to bed as usual and we go to business as usual, and the developed countries don’t do anything for the rest of our lives, we are still going to die. Developed country emissions are far higher and sometimes they are increasing much more rapidly than in developed countries; so we have to get rid of this Annex 1 and Annex 2 business.
We should all take the responsibility and have ambition to reduce Carbon emission.
Whatever the ‘illegally’ binding agreement, I have no doubt about that, but this agreement should also focus on big emitting countries and not necessarily lean towards the GDP growth or the GDP of the country or other development indexes. We should all take the responsibility and we should all stop emitting carbon.
Now to do that, in my mind the best way is find an economic argument for this. This is why I thought coming to the London School of Economics would be a good idea. Its not just Earth Science, Earth Science, in my mind, alone will not give us a good idea. We need to find an economic argument for that.
Why the Maldives is becoming carbon neutral is because we have an economic argument for it. We import all our oil while we have all these other resources; the sun, the wind and the ocean. So if we can produce our energy through these resources; we can’t understand why we should import all this fossil fuel and at the same time damage the environment so much.
I would argue and I would suggest that the winning council to this would be to get a deal between the leading countries, the Europeans seems to say that they are willing to do it. Of the conversations that I have had with the Indians and the Chinese and the Brazilians I understand that they are willing to do it. I can’t understand why we can’t have an agreement with emitting countries minus the United States, of what I have heard of the United States they are not willing. And I would suggest that these countries use economic powers and other tools to get the United States to align with them through sanctions.
And I don’t think we have the time to nicely go on talking about the issues endlessly and I am told that science suggests that we have a window of about 07 years and if we are unable to bring a drastic change in these 07 years we will soon meet a tipping point from which it will be very, very difficult to pull back. This is 2011, the science is very, very certain and you can’t be so silly and stupid, countries and leaders have to realize that this is happening. It’s happening in the Maldives, we are relocating people from 16 islands. More than 70 islands have contaminated water, because of saltwater intrusion into the water lens. And we have to desalinate water for that, and desalinating water for an island is as expensive as providing a revetment for the island. We have 2000 islands; we need 2000 revetments and we need 2000 water systems. So to do that, we have doubled our taxes. So we will, I hope we will win the elections as well, we have to do this and we have to gain the moral high ground and we have to be able to tell others what they are doing and hopefully in my mind we will get a legally binding agreement by becoming so good and not by endlessly trying to talk to them.
And World Trade Organization has been going on and on about trying to get an agreement, and I think the UNFCCC can go on and on about trying to get an agreement and it will be exactly the same story. So we should get it together, get it sorted and sign the dotted lines.
Well, I know this is not what other are thinking, I can quite understand especially that I can’t be popular with developing countries and neither can I be very popular with developed countries. I am not very often popular with these kinds of people but for some reason they have voted their faith in me and I am hoping that they will still do that. And I hope that we will see the light and that we will be able to during the course of tomorrow, come out with an analogy that will lead us to a legally binding agreement. And in my mind that narrative has to have economics and it has to take us to the moral high ground and be able to dictate to other what this legally binding agreement should be.