Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It has now been two days since we arrived at Finland. We have been, I must say, looked after very well. I have also being enjoying your climate.
Very often I am told that this is the coldest winter that you had. My friends in Europe very often also tell me come summer or last summer, they would say that is the hottest summer that they’ve had. In spring they would say they’ve never had so much rain, and in autumn they would say the winds have been very strong.
We seem to assume, of what I hear in Finland especially, that we are talking about the weather, we are not. We are talking about climate change, climate aberrations – winter is getting colder, the summer is getting hotter. The climate is changing. It is not necessarily just simply about global change and therefore, what we are witnessing, if the science is correct, is what are all worried about, which is climate aberrations.
We do believe in the science. It is quite foolhardy if we try to assume, or if we try to pick instances or pieces of science and then we very easily ignore all the other instances of science that we don’t like.
During the past few months after Copenhagen, there has been a number of stories circulating that has raised people’s skepticism, that has clouded the issue of science. We have seen all the talks of leaked emails, we have heard about the IPCC report and two pages of irregularities in it. Mind you the whole report is 3000 pages.
If you look at the material difference that any of these leaked emails and circulating stories make to the actual substance, to the actual facts of the science. You would very well realize that they don’t make any difference whatsoever.
In my mind, the leaked emails and the objections on the IPCC report, and all the stories, jokes, all the ridicules surrounding the science is, I would say, a conspiracy to cloud the issue.
I have never seen any story, or I am yet to see a story on the criminal element of hacking the emails. I would like to see more investigation on who hacked the emails, where was it first found, why has it made so many rounds in the press, why is it getting so much attention. I would like to see more investigation done on, exactly, the other of the story.
We all know there are amazing and very well institutionalized and very established lobbying mechanisms in many developed countries. These lobbying mechanisms usually and very often can be very effective in turning around an issue and in clouding the substance of an issue.
When we now read a newspaper, it is always, there will be stories of climate change and as good journalists, and writers would have last few lines saying that the emails were leaked and the issue of the IPCC report. But we would now like to see also the other line saying these emails were leaked and through a network that was definitely and … decided to cloud the science.
I don’t think we can be that stupid. If we think that we are back yet again in the dark ages when we did not, that much, believe in the science – when, for instance, Galileo Galilei said the sun is the centre of the universe, the Pope of course wanted to, immediately, do away with him, he arrested him and finally died in confinement.
We now live in an age where we can choose to understand the science. I just recently come from a country called Iceland. That is a country I would like to tell the developing countries that what we are looking for is not carbon, but what we are looking for is development. We are not looking for oil, but what we are looking for is transport.
Iceland has managed to become a developed country or Iceland has managed to develop mainly through changing to renewable sources of energy and geothermal. People might them come up and say that not all countries are as blessed as Iceland with all the renewable resources available. But the more we look, the more we find that there are alternative and economically feasible sources of energy.
When the Victorians started the railways, people at that time thought that was the work of the devil. When we try to erect windmills, we now think that it scars our landscape. But we fail to see that the pylons, electricity pylons, crisscrossing the whole of our countryside, European countryside. They don’t necessarily scar our landscape because we were born with it. You have always seen them there and therefore, it is not such an impact on you. So hopefully the next generation will not see the windmills as a scar on the landscape, but rather, I would say, an assistance or the only hope of saving our planet.
We have to bold enough to understand that we are on a threshold of massive change. We cannot now ignore the science. We have to agree that if we go business as usual, countries like the Maldives first because we are on the frontline, all countries have a lot to lose and in fact we might just not be able to save this planet. We just have one of these things, the planet, and if we can’t save this one, then God help us.
The Maldives is just 1.5 meters above sea level, and even a small increase in sea level, would really create a number of challenges to countries like the Maldives. We are already facing these challenges. We have more than 16 islands where people have to be relocated. Our water table is being contaminated through sea water intrusion and therefore, we have issues to do with food security. Ocean temperatures are rising, and therefore, fishing and fish stock and our fish catch is dwindling. We have number of challenges and issues and if you think this is a thing to do with the Maldives and up here in Iceland or down there in Australia and Argentina, you are safe then you are very misled.
The Maldives is a frontline state, what happens to the Maldives will ultimately and finally happen to you tomorrow.
After Copenhagen, we have lost a lot of momentum in climate change issues, mainly because people have been able to cloud the science. I understand that the science has to come out again and I would say very certainly have to state the facts again. Make it very clear what we are talking about, but also make it very clear and lively and in a manner in which ordinary people can understand. It has to be better presented and it has to more circulated.
When the science is sorted, we also now need to understand who is trying to cloud the issue. Until very recently, we all thought or we all heard that smoking has no relationship, whatsoever, to heart diseases and this was institutional in the developed countries such as the United States. But we all knew what a load of rubbish that was; we all knew that this was not true. But it was so well argued, that it was only yesterday or just a few months ago that it was agreed that there was a leak.
Now, how long can we wait in climate change. We, I think, the science is very clear in this. We have a window of opportunity not that long, not that big. If we cannot act now – in the next few years – we will go and we will reach tipping point, from where it would be very difficult for us to take a good grip on the issue. We have this opportunity now.
You cannot negotiate on these issues.
One of the issues in Copenhagen was that increasingly countries saw, people saw, the whole issue, exactly in similar fashion was for instance world trade talks or disarmament talks. You cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature. You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics. You have planetary boundaries and you cannot extend and you cannot go beyond that. We have to find alternative sources of energy and I am very confident that this is happening – that we are increasingly finding alternative sources of energy.
We are, I believe, on the threshold of another industrial revolution – the green revolution. Those who are bold enough to embrace that future, will be the winners of this century.
Your country has been winning all throughout this industrial revolution. For you to continue on that track, you have to agree that this is the moment you have to seize. You have to extend your cutting edge technology now not to the prehistorically older, the obsolete technology, but the new ones, that is, in solar, in wind, in geothermal, in biomass, and all the other renewables that we are now seeing.
I am heartened and I am encouraged by what I have seen in this country - the amazing extent of technology that is available. The Maldives decided to go carbon neutral not because we think that by 350,000 Maldivians reducing carbon emission, we can save the world. No. Not because of that. But we strongly feel that the Maldives can act as a showcase to the rest of the world.
Yes. We had not part in bringing the world to this brink. I must say, some of the developing countries are arguing because they had no part in bringing us, bringing the planet, to the brink that they should be allowed to go business as usual. But we really, again, have to understand is even if the rest of the world goes to sleep today and we allowed China and India, Brazil and Argentina, Indonesia and Malaysia and all the other big emitting developing countries to emit, we will still destroy the planet. So, there is no case for an argument where developing countries should not limit the emission. They should limit the emissions as much as the developed countries.
Yes, the developed countries brought us to the brink and we cannot now let the developing countries push us over the edge. It is everyone’s responsibility. Let us not point finger at each other. We should all act together. We should all be bold enough to understand if we don’t act now, we will not have a future tomorrow.
I had a look at the topic of today’s discussion – its “Leadership in Climate Change”. I do not claim that we offer leadership. But I would like to claim that we are offering an idea for discussion.
Leadership very often, in my mind, involves leading, not following. Very often we see countries on negotiating tables telling us or telling other leaders that their congress, their parliament, their legislatures are not agreeing – their people are not agreeing. That is, I don’t think, leadership.
Leadership is when you go out to the country and when you convince your people of the right thing, of the right path. That, in my mind, is leadership not following the herd. This is not the time to follow the herd. This is the time if you want to lead in this. If any leader is telling me that their parliament is not agreeing, I really don’t want to listen to that. If you are a leader, go out to the country and tell you people of the right course of action and convince them or get out of the job. If I cannot convince my people, what is happening to our country and the rest of the world, I will certainly bow down and leave.
In my mind, we should give leadership. They should be another generation of leaders who are bold enough and who are, I must say, intelligent enough to understand what is happening to the world. I also find that very often when the countries say that cannot reduce carbon emissions from 20 per cent or by 30 per cent, I very often find that they really haven’t got a clue of what they are talking about. I want to see what they mean by 20 per cent. Where do they have to cut? What are they talking about? How much does it cost? Where would it be cut? Also, I would like to turn it around and ask, “Can you actually increase your emission by all that amount as you are now suggesting”? Where is the oil? Where is the money?
Even if the earth can sustain the increased amount of carbon, I would like to see where they are going to get all that oil from and where they are going to all that money from to continue emitting. I am saying, I am referring to big emitting countries.
When they say their peaking years cannot be before 2050 and the level of carbon that they are aiming to emit is so high, when you translate that to actual substantial amount of oil or fossil fuel, you can’t square it. It doesn’t add up. We don’t have that much oil in the world. So if you really want to produce that much of energy, you have to find alternative sources of energy. I believe, and again I would stress, that that source of energy is now available.
We have to rethink the economics. We have to understand that there is nothing called free good. All factors of production, or whenever we produce anything, everything has to be costed.
The extent to which you destroy the atmosphere, the extent to which you pollute the atmosphere has to be costed.
We have to come up with a new economics. We have to get the economics aligned with the science. So when we now move towards Mexico, I would like to see the new economics also clearly laid in front of us. The economics, in my mind, definitely point to the fact that renewable energy is more economically feasible.
I am seeing this happening in many instances. I hope that the Maldives going carbon neutral, we will be physically able to demonstrate that this is true. But I have just come from a country that has been demonstrating that this is true – Iceland. They seem to have built an excellent country without fossil fuel.
I also think, before we go to Mexico, there has to be more trust between developed and developing countries. One of the very finer points that I noticed in Copenhagen was that many developing countries thought the whole issue of climate change and the negotiations was an elaborate trap to stop them from developing - that this is a conspiracy of the West in trying to stop them from becoming better than the West.
We have to be able to trust each other. We have to be able to understand that this has no other motive other than just survival of our species. To do this, we need not only the science, but also the economics that development without carbon is economically feasible and it will not stop them from developing. And also let them understand that this is a great opportunity for them to seize the new technology.
I always have an example, where in the United States mobile telephones are still fairly primitive because they laid a whole landline network well before the 1930s. To make that infrastructure obsolete becomes difficult.
So when you go into new technology, when you go into development, why do you want to be bogged down with the obsolete technologies of yesterday, when the future renewable energy is available.
We need to show them the economics as well as the science.
Just before I finish, I will let you know, on the subject of leadership, when President Kennedy said that he would like to see the Americans land on the moon, they didn’t have a clue of how they want to do it. But when you outline a vision you very often see that everything else gets aligned behind.
So if you want to lead, if leaders a willing to be actual leaders, they will have to have a vision and they will have to come forward.
I am sure we will see this leadership in this country and many other countries around the world.