Good afternoon Your Excellency Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It has been an excellent two days in Iceland. As the President pointed out, we met some months ago in Abu Dhabi. But even before that I had pointed out to an audience in India that is a country called Iceland who has been able to develop without carbon emission.
We so often think, view and seem to understand and believe that development goes hand in hand with increasing amount of carbon emission. In conferences, in seminars and in workshops all of us – heads of states, parliamentarians and leader – argue that we cannot reduce carbon emission because we have to develop. We have to increase to better our life. We need to give electricity to our people. Our people need to have refrigerators, air conditions, running water, sewerages and so and so forth. So our development is so important that we cannot talk about carbon emission.
I come from a country very far away from Iceland. But you would be surprised how similar we both are. Our country’s population is 340,000 – a little bit more than yours. The composition of it is dispersed within 200 islands and we have one big city called Malé which has 120, 000 people in it. And, we have the rest of the population dispersed among small communities, in our case they are islands, while in your case, of course there are villages. The bedrock of our development and our economy rests on fishing and its not different here. So the more I think of Iceland, the more I feel that there is so much we can get together.
There is so much that we can achieve through collaboration, through cooperation. I want to see how we can do it. I am blessed with a President in Iceland who has the bigger picture, who sees a broader horizon to understand that there are things that we can do together and there are things that we have to do together. I do understand trapped in the moment of time, you might have all sorts of political difficulties, economic difficulties. But I will argue that they are very, very insignificant compared to the greater scheme of things. The nature of the world and everything that surrounds us is far, far bigger than what is happening in this exact moment in time. Especially living on islands, horizon is always endless so we would be able to, I am sure, work together.
Our similarities do not end in just the few things I have mentioned. Increasingly, I am finding that our attitudes towards life are also very similar – that must be the island mentality. We are worried about our reefs, you are worried about your glaciers. We are all concerned about climate change. For us to overcome…I was introduced by the good rector, saying I will talk to you about the Maldives and the challenges that we face with climate change. I would like to go a little bit beyond that. More than the challenges I would like to offer a solutions.
The challenge is very obvious – that we are all going to die. If we go business as usual, we won’t be around. Very soon our countries will be inundated with water or climate aberrations will make sure that the whole systems go into freefall, with tipping points tipping beyond levels and beyond conditions that we can manage. So what would happen to the Maldives is exactly what would happen to you. If you cannot defend the Maldives today, you cannot defend yourselves tomorrow, we cannot save London, we cannot save Manhattan. So we are all Maldivians and it is not just us, it is all of us together.
What I would like to talk about is on Iceland. I again, would like to stress that the more I see this country, how well you have been able to come out carbon free, or rather fairly carbon free and then still coming up with all these roads, coming up with all these homes, with call these buildings and all these opportunities and all these development and niceties. So I want to take Iceland to India and tell them this is exhibit A, Iceland. It has been able to develop without all these carbon emissions, so please don’t be so preoccupied with all your coal plants, diesel fuels and so on and please do not go on and on arguing in conferences that we need development. Yes, we need development but we do not need carbon. That’s not what we are looking at. What we are looking at is a good life – we want good food, we want good films, we want a good life. And how do we do that? That is through sustainable development and so I would like to take this exhibit A to developing countries and tell them here is how you do it. Back in the 1970s you were still classified by the United Nations as a developing nation and now just a few decades later look where you are!
Someone critical might come out now and say to us: look where we are, we have all sorts of financial difficulties, that the IMF is on top of us, that we do not have a parliamentary party for a single party, there is no stable government here, you can go on and on. But what I am saying is you are trapped in the moment of time, if you concentrate on yourself, if you focus yourself on this moment. There is a bigger picture. I know how important democracy is. Younger generations in this country, or rather no one in this country probably can value freedom as much as we value it.
Just recently we have come against odds and we have been fortunate to be able to galvanize the people of the Maldives to political activism, we have been able to form political parties, we have been able to have multiparty elections, we have had free and fair presidential elections, parliamentary elections, we have also had smooth transfer of power, we have been able to separate powers of state, judiciary is independent, so it goes on. And, that is again what is available here in Iceland. So we want to learn from you. We want to see how you are dispensing for instance, local government. We are doing that now, and we have to do that now in the Maldives. There is so much that we can learn but most importantly, whatever difficulties that you have now is just simply nothing. It is far, far more insignificant than what you have been able to achieve and the future is in front of you. So again, I would like to take Iceland to China, take Iceland to India, take Iceland to South Africa, take Iceland to Brazil and I would like to tell them, look this is how you do it, not in the manner that you are arguing and quarrelling about.
As I keep saying, I will do that in the very near future and I really do hope that the good people of this country would back the Maldives and your President and your leaders to do that with us.
We need to save the world. No one is going to do that for us. No one else is going to do that for us and we have to understand and we have to believe that it can be done. We might be small but very often best things come in small measures. It is in small packages that you get your best presents. Maldives and Iceland may be very small but we can reach above our height and punch much, much harder than we can ever imagine. We have a moral authority; we have a moral authority to tell the world we did nothing to bring the world to this situation. We did nothing whatsoever. The amount of carbon emission that your country and our country put together would be so insignificant compared to what has happened to the world but we stand at the receiving end. We stand at the brunt of it. We will suffer, we will not live.
We can fight against the odds. And from my experience, I believe that it is possible to fight against the odds and come out winning. Even two years ago, no one in the Maldives or anywhere else for that matter would have believed that I would be standing here as the President of the Maldives. But we fought against the odds and we have been able to win. Here is another challenge. Yes, it is a little bit bigger saving the world, but please believe me we can fight against the odds and it can be won.
So I again thank Your Excellency, the President and thank the good people of this country for inviting me to this beautiful country, to broaden my horizon and letting me see how you have done it here and also giving me these ideas that there is a country that has done it. Iceland has done it, and there is no reason why Maharashtra, or Madras, or Delhi or China can’t do it. We can make Madras carbon neutral through the technologies available here. The technology of renewable energy – geothermal energy – is available in this country and we can take that technology to other countries and we can ask them to start living according to how you have been living.
We know that after Copenhagen, the momentum is losing. We are losing the momentum. Sceptics have come out and started saying that the glaciers are not melting, the world is not heating, and there is no scientific evidence to it. They have all come out and talked about leaked emails, mistakes in IPCCC reports and they are all pointing and creating more doubts, scepticisms and saying that therefore, we can go business as usual. No, we can’t be trapped in that.
In my mind there is a diabolical conspiracy to spin it this way. Even if you put all the emails together and even if put all the mistakes in the IPCCC reports together that does not give you a material difference to the facts. It does not change the facts. It is just a very peripheral, a very marginal view to spin it the other way. Please understand that there are very good spinning machines, there are very good media companies who can do it very effectively. Now we were until yesterday still arguing that smoking and cancer has no relationship at all. But we know it that it is not true.
And now again we are continuously being faced, every time a journalist, a paper writes about climate change, at the end of it there will be a sentence, at the end of every paragraph, there will be a sentence saying that the leaked emails were saying this and the IPCCC report saying that.
I believe that there is a definite conspiracy behind this. Where is the investigative journalism on trying to understand why these emails came out? Who hacked it? Where is the criminal investigation, especially from the investigative journalists, of hacking someone’s email? Who posted it on the internet? Why did someone suddenly come out with it? Where was the network, who was it, what is happening? I think we need to understand that. I think we need to get in front of it and we need to get above it. I am sure as we go along we will be able to get over it.
In my mind the science is very, very sorted. And again I am more and more convinced. I have been shown, I must say, by the best of the best scientists in this world on earth science here in this institution. And I am again more convinced that this is happening and we have to work hard. We have to work hard in not trying to tell the people to give up the good life. No, that can’t happen. But we can tell the people that there is an alternative and it is called Iceland. And we can show this very good example, and I am sure we can get people talking and I am sure we can get people believing that the Iceland’s way is the best way and that is the way we will be able to save mankind.
Thank you very much.