I hope you are all well rested. I’m sure you have travelled from all over the world. I’m very sorry that all of you could not stay in the same place. I wish you were staying over here or in all nearby resorts but I understand it’s not the case. Tourist arrival is quite high in the Maldives and most of the resorts are with high occupancy. But let me welcome you all. It’s a pleasure to have you all here in the Maldives. And it’s the first time we are having this conference in this country.
At the very outset, let me take this opportunity to thank CANSO for organising your Asia Pacific Conference here in the Maldives. It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you from the Asia-Pacific region to our beautiful country.
The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation or CANSO, I understand that it plays a very vital role in the world’s air traffic industry and hence in global aviation management. I understand CANSO is responsible for supporting over 85% of the world’s air traffic management.
Air travel is almost synonymous with modern life. It is the world’s fastest growing means of transportation, where total passenger traffic doubling in every 15 years, and freight traffic growing even faster.
I commend CANSO, for the vision and commitment on transforming air traffic management of sustainable growth. This I believe is very important for the sake of our environment, for our survival, for our future.
The toll on the global environment from unsustainable, policies and actions is very evident now. The consequences of environmental neglect and complacency are no more debatable. The message is very loud and clear.
International aviation emissions from developed countries rose by 65% between 1990 and 2005; and since 1990, the sector has seen an 87% increase in CO2 emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also projected in its "base" scenario that emissions from aviation, even assuming fuel efficiency gains, would rise from nearly 500 million tonnes in 2002 to 1200 million tonnes of CO2 in 2030; an increase in emissions of over 250%. Aircraft emissions are said to have between two to four times the global warming potential as ground-level CO2.
As all of you know Maldives is a country that consists of about 1100 tiny islands. Our highest island is about a meter and a half. So any rise in sea level will have great impact on our country. In fact today the effect of global warming seems to be already impacting our country. Where that burden or the development budget of this country today is environmental related. In most of our islands are being, are suffering from coastal beach erosion. And most of our islands fresh water lens is becoming contaminated with salt water. These are clues that of environmental damage that is already causing an enormous burden for Maldives and I believe for other small island countries as well.
Global GHG emissions have been steadily increasing despite the rhetoric and pledges. While the world was debating on scenarios and projections we have seen a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions in the last 20 years and the average global temperature increased by more than 1 degree Celsius.
The consequences of these are very obvious. The evidence is very apparent in the country. You can now see around and understand why the Maldives is very nervous and concerned about even a few centimetres rise in sea level.
Maldives has been in the forefront since 1989, advocating for responsible global environmental policies, to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to adopt sustainable development strategies and to pay special consideration to the fate of low lying small island countries.
Our islands are accumulations of sand or remnants of organisms living exclusively in and around the reef of our island. Constant production and supply of coral sand is absolutely necessary for the very existence of islands. Any detrimental change in the intricate linkages of the system will seriously jeopardize the supply of sediments and thus the stability of the sand.
I hope you can now understand how significant the reef is to the very existence and eventually the survival of the island. How the interplay of the currents, waves and sea level affects the dynamics of the islands, and appreciate how even a subtle change in the environment can pose a threat to the very existence of our islands.
However, little you may have realised that we still have not fully recovered from the coral bleaching losses of the 1998 El-Nino sea warming event. You may not have imagined that with each centimetre rise in sea level, the erosive power of waves increase many folds.
With repeated incidents of coral bleaching, more frequent and severe storms conditions, unusual weather patterns, the resilience of our islands decreases, our society, our economy, our very existence is threatened. It is costing our GDP, it is eroding our savings, and it is diverting our developmental efforts.
The Government of Maldives is committed to the cause of protecting the environment, both locally and globally. It is doing all it can to reduce its carbon footprint. We are absolutely committed to a low carbon, sustainable developmental path. We will stay course on this.
We will continue to work with the private sector to implement and replicate policies and initiatives that are successfully being used in other countries to catalyse mitigation efforts.
It is my Government’s aim to strengthen established institutions and to develop new ones, to bolster the climate and energy sectors through sound policies and regulations.
In the next few days I will set up a new ministry of environment and energy. The objective of this effort is to develop and implement policies, strategies and programmes to follow a clean, sustainable development path.
Institutions like CANSO, just like governments, can bring about changes to redress environmental damage and neglect, and improve the situation. Last year, the International Energy Agency warned that without bold policy directions, the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and an unsustainably high carbon energy system.
According to IATA, by 2020, airlines are aiming for at least an additional 25% improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emission reduction, through technology, operational enhancements, and “new aircrafts".
Another area where the aircraft industry has come up with innovative solutions is in fuel. Several airlines have moved to substitute conventional kerosene fuel for “sustainable alternative fuels”. Aviation bio-fuel and hydrogen may be promising alternatives for aircrafts in the future.
One of the airlines that come here is Qatar airways. We welcome efforts by Qatar airways to invest in bio fuels for its future use.
Apparently, improving aircraft aerodynamics and reducing their weight could result in future fleets being 40-50% more efficient than current designs. The latest models of Airbus and Boeing passenger aircraft are more fuel efficient than currently existing models. Airbus' flagship, the A-380, is able to carry more passengers, reducing the amount of CO2 emitted per passenger mile. Boeing's 787 aircrafts are built with lightweight composite materials and could be 20% more efficient than the heavier aircraft it will replace. This is bad news.
I understand that with new air traffic management technologies and with new better air traffic management measures such as, operational concepts, improved airspace design and with improved procedures it is possible to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint and to develope the civil aviation industry’s contribution to clean environment.
However, more than the technological challenges, it requires the will to act, the will to take the decisive step, and the will to make a difference.
I believe CANSO can take the leadership necessary to address the political, economic and institutional and regulatory challenges in the aviation field.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
This is the defining issue of our generation. We will be judged for our actions, for the sake of future generations. Each one of us has a responsibility. Let us exercise our responsibilities to save the planet earth.