Good Morning and Good Morning Sonu,
We have the Speaker of the Maldivian Parliament, we have the Vice President, we have Ministers and MP’s and of course we have all these beautiful people who have shown an interest in what we are trying to do here in the Maldives and have taken the time and have come here. Richard; thank you very much for coming. And I also see a number of faces that I have seen here from last year.
It is indeed developing and building to be a nice little event that we are able to have every year. And thank you very much Sonu, for maintaining and sustaining it. I am sure during the course of this Symposium we would be able to define ourselves more clearly on how we can go forward with future Symposium’s.
On the issue of climate change; it’s really simple and it’s sorted. If we exceed more than 350 pp million of Carbon in the atmosphere, we are going to die. The science is clear and it’s sorted and I really don’t think that there is any debate that we further require on the certainty of the subject.
UNFCCC who has been at it for the last 20 years, in trying to find an agreement among States is not still able to come out with a clear understanding among the member countries and I really don’t see them being able to do it in the near future either.
And again also, the manner in which they are going about it is an attempt to find the lowest common denominator in an agreement. Which is if two countries agree on a certain thing and if a third country comes along you again dilute the initial understanding to accommodate the third country. So at the end of the day even if they come up with an agreement, it will be an agreement about nothing.
So, I hope that the UNFCCC Process and the United Nations as well, find new thinking, find other ways and means of how countries maybe able to have conversations on the subject.
In negotiations, the world is divided and it’s really a whole lot of bickering that goes on in the international forum.
There is on the one hand, countries that we call the rich countries. Surprisingly, the leader of this group is the United States. These are the rich countries. And the poor countries; apparently the leader of that group is the biggest investor in the world which is People’s Republic of China. There is even confusion among them in trying to define themselves whether they are poor or rich.
Now, for us, its very, very clear. Even if you are rich or if you are poor it doesn’t really matter. The amount of carbon emission to the atmosphere is still going to kill us.
So, even if the developed world goes to sleep tomorrow and does nothing for the next 100 years and if the developing countries go to business as usual, we are still going to die. So I feel that this bickering and squabbling about who should reduce emission and who should cut it and how much is really, really quite silly. And I hope these countries come to understand the absurdity of it all and then actually try to do something real. For the past twenty years the UN and all the negotiations have been trying to get countries to reduce their emission. Carbon emission has become sacred in many senses because that has been equated to development. Very often we find leaders suggesting that tapping carbon emission or reducing carbon emission would amount to poverty or would amount to reduction in their growth and development.
We are now increasingly seeing that this trend is not true at all. We can find a low carbon development procedure, where we still end up getting the same thing through better technology and renewable energy. We already have countries that have done it. I always think that, in the 1970’s Iceland was still a developing country. But they’ve of course found a whole lot of renewable energy, and they’ve been able to trade back and become a developing country through renewable energy. And if we try to map the situations and the conditions and the measures that Iceland took in their path to development through less carbon emitting sources of energy I am sure we will able to find solutions and find ways of doing it.
In my mind a low carbon growth projection is possible, and I think we should be going forward with it. Why I say this is because in the daytime electricity costs, production costs and diesel costs production in the Maldives is 40 cents and even the highest renewable energy production cost is now 30 cents. So there is really no reason at all other than a gap in investments, initial investments that we can adjust more than 80% of our carbon emission or our production can become renewable in the very foreseeable future and it is financially and economically viable.
We have very often taken climate change to be an earth science issue, but I think if we are to address this and find solutions, we need to look at it in other dimensions as well. For me it’s an economic issue, it’s a developmental issue, it’s a security issue. its a safety issue. It’s not necessarily just a science or environment issue.
We need to become carbon neutral even if there was no climate change. Simply because this is more economically viable. We’ve all these resources, we have the sun but we do not have fossil fuel and we import for energy use we use more than 14% of our GDP as for renewable energy and for fossil fuel energy. And that’s actually less than our education and health project combined.
So, we need to find solutions very rapidly and I think the renewable energy and the interest that everyone is now maintaining and showing in this new technology is really a blessing for the Maldives.
We are trying to become carbon neutral not because we think we can save the world by Maldives becoming carbon neutral. We know we emit nothing almost compared to other countries, but we feel that if we can demonstrate a low carbon developmental strategy, that can be understood, examined and copied elsewhere, then it would be a step within the right direction.
Countries might be very big sometimes but it all starts with an individual, with a family, with a household, with a town, with a village, with a city and with huge, huge cities. But initially its always an individual and its always a family or a house. So what we are trying to find are solutions for our homes, solutions for families. Now if we are able to find family solutions, a carbon neutral family solutions in their consumption methods or in their consumption levels, then I am sure this can be mapped elsewhere.
I am sure we should be able to find other innovative ways of having carbon conversations or climate change conversations with other governments. The UNFCCC process has very much stressed on carbon reduction and that is very difficult for many leaders. We love to open power houses and cut ribbons and clap and shake hands. That’s a politicians life. It is clapping, shaking hands and cutting ribbons. It is very difficult and I am sure it will be very difficult for a number of leaders when the United Nations come up to them and say not to cut ribbons and not to clap hands and not to shake hands. Basically, you get most amounts of claps when you open a power plant because it is providing electricity and it is providing light to a number of rural islands and countries.
So when the UN comes up and tells us or rather political leaders, I am trying to distance myself from them, but when they come up and tell leaders we tend to be very skeptical about it. It is a devious plan to get us out of power. It’s an opposition plan in fact. So it becomes very difficult.
But what we feel is if we start asking countries to start producing renewable energy, or commit themselves to a certain amount of their income or their GDP in renewable energy that would amount to asking the politicians to start opening new power plants and more power plants but greener power plants. And I just feel that in this way we will all be at it wanting to open more power plants. And if we can make renewable energy, or rather ask countries to make more energy but renewable energy instead of asking them to reduce fossil fuels.
I think if we start out negotiations on these lines, India or any developing country if they agree to a certain amount of their income to be invested in renewable energy, we know how much electricity that is, we know how much carbon reduction that is, and we know India’s growth for instance and we know how rapidly capital investments in renewable energy is falling. I’m sure we will be able to find when India will peak carbon emissions and when it will be able to reduce its emissions.
Of course rich countries can get more focused on reduction, poorer countries can get more focused on production and we need to find how money can flow from one to the other.
I don’t suggest that anyone talk about tax money as this is again a road that will lead us to nowhere. I completely stopped talking about grants, concession loans or any such things for renewable energy. We’ve increased our taxes. We’ve introduced- the speaker of the parliament is here- we’ve introduced GST, we’ve introduced income tax, we’ve introduced business profit tax and therefore we are able to fend for ourselves now.
It would not be possible for any one of us to do any of these things if we have to endlessly rely upon international community or the goodwill of anyone. We have to be able to fend for ourselves. Now that is when I start talking other things and climate change.
So for me the most important adaptation method is democracy. And you have to have a responsive government to discuss these issues and to have means through your own people and through your own taxation. Now in adaptation, most of the funding that people have been asking for is for adaptation and I think that if we stop talking about tax money and start talking about more innovative finance and the market to do this. Perhaps it might be much easier for us to go ahead and achieve this. But of course there is the issue of historical justice or the issue of what has happened in the past and it is the industrialized world who did this and that now we want to have a better life we can’t emit carbon. So they should be paying back for what has happened to the atmosphere during the last centuries in the industrial world.
We don’t have time for this bickering. We really don’t have. We have a window of opportunity of about seven years and if leaders are unable to sort it out they should stop calling themselves leaders and get out of it.
We must be able to find agreements and understandings. We go to Durban at the end of this year and I do not see anything happening in Durban. I’ve just recently had a very nice conversation and a little meeting with Mary Robins and the team that she put together on the legality of it all and if we could take countries to court saying that they are emitting carbon. But the whole idea is to see if we can come out with a legally binding agreement through existing legal structures of countries and governments instead of trying to see if we can come up with an agreement through conventions or through UN negotiations which we are increasingly finding it to be very, very lucid.
After Durban we will probably be sitting in South Korea and I hope that by this time we are able to come up with a legally binding agreement. I see many encouraging signs I see that India and China are listening to everyone much, much more than before and I’ve a feeling that they have understood the other side of the coin to say that this is an opportunity for renewable energy growth.
So, we are now able to speak to the Indian government and the Chinese government and I am very, very pleased that they are receptive. They listen to you and I think we can all talk to them.
Because I’m the president I can’t be talking about countries but there are some countries that you can’t talk to and it’s difficult to talk to them. Either it’s because of a huge bureaucratic procedure or people are just so stuck up.
We have our carbon plant. Shauna’s done me a little list of things that we’ve done, since we met last year. I hope you will clap. We have just published our carbon neutral- that’s just publishing, writing something so it’s not really anything- electricity plant online and we invite you to comment and suggest improvements. It contains a target to generate 60% of our electricity from solar power by 2020 and we think we can reduce electricity emission by 80% without putting people’s energy bill’s any further up.
Last month, our state electric company, our central electric company on the first contract renewable energy heading tariffs. And it was with a male’ hotel chain investing in solar to make a good return on their investments. So, we’ve come up with a tariff system and we’ve started taking people into the system.
The transport ministry has announced a new import regime for future electricity cars and everything are cheaper , petrol cars are expensive and all renewable energy products are duty free. So you can import them as much as you want.
We predicted that the current government policies will get us about half way to carbon neutrality and so i am confident in the months and years ahead we can continue to introduce new policies so that we will be able to be on target and on place.
I will stop and I will ask to see if you have any questions or anything that I can add to the doubts or the expectations you have. Thank you.