Excellency President Mohamed Nasheed, Mr Achim Steiner Executive Director of UNEP, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
May I first congratulate His Excellency the President and the Minister for taking this bold step to phase-out HCFCs within the next ten years.
Congratulations. Also, may I thank especially UNEP and also UNDP and other UN agencies for supporting the government in achieving this ambitious goal.
At the risk of being slightly redundant, I will proceed with the statement that was prepared for me. Thank you Mr President for letting me make the statement.
We meet here to celebrate the Maldives’ decision to phase-out the use of HCFC gasses by 2020.
As we know, these e greenhouse gasses are destroying the ozone layer and fueling climate change.
HCFCs therefore represent a security threat to the Maldives and we are right to rid them from our country.
As you just heard, we decided to achieve this goal within the next ten years and it is ten years ahead of the Montreal Protocol.
This level of ambition is something we can all be proud.
By discontinuing the use of these harmful products, in our air conditioners and refrigeration systems, we can lead the world by example.
Our Environment Ministry estimates that the Maldives’ greenhouse gas emissions will also fall significantly when we stop using HCFCs.
It makes clear environmental sense to phase-out these dangerous greenhouse gasses.
But I believe is also makes economic sense to move away from HCFCs.
They are rapidly becoming yesterday’s technology.
They have already been phased out in most Western countries.
And as more and more countries ban HCFCs, it will become increasingly expensive to use them.
As HCFCs slowly disappear from world markets, it will become increasingly difficult to repair appliances that contain them.
And so it makes immense sense to switch to other alternatives.
Appliances that do not use HCFCs also tend to be more energy efficient, making them cheaper to run.
Over the next 10 years, most resorts, businesses and households in the Maldives will replace or restore products such as refrigerators and air conditioners, as old systems ware out.
And so we want to gradually replace old HCFC systems, with better and more energy efficient alternatives.
The HCFC phase-out is part of the government’s wider efforts to steer a new development path.
We want to move away from old fashioned ‘business as usual’ development.
The old, 20th Century view of development suggests a country such as the Maldives should burn more fossil fuels.
This wisdom suggests that pollution is an inevitable by-product of economic growth.
This logic dictates that we should plunder our natural environment, for the short-term benefit of the current generation and we reject this view.
The Maldives is very fragile.
Our economic health is highly dependent on the health of our reef ecosystems.
If we damage our reefs, we damage our country, our economy.
Instead, we want harness new technologies to pioneer green growth and development.
We want this growth to complement, rather than clash with, our natural environment.
We already know well that the Maldives aims to become carbon neutral within 10 years.
This is the toughest mitigation target of any nation under the Copenhagen Accord.
In part, we are pioneering a new development path because we want to lead by example.
Climate change is fundamentally a security issue to the Maldives.
Left unchecked, climate change will kill our coral reefs and submerge our island home.
We know we cannot solve this problem on our own.
But by leading the way, we hope to persuade larger countries to reduce emissions.
Environmental considerations lie at the heart of our development strategy.
But our desire to adopt green growth is not only borne from ecological concerns.
It is also influenced by economic considerations.
We don’t view cutting greenhouse gasses only as an environmental burden.
We are going green as an economic and security advantage.
Like many countries, the Maldives is highly dependent on oil.
We rely on oil to keep our lights on; our cars running; and our boats sailing.
Our economy is totally dependent on imported fuels.
And yet, we have absolutely no control over the supply or price of these commodities.
Our economy is slowly recovering from the mismanagement of the past.
And we have left the worst of the recession behind.
But an oil price hike would destabilise our economic recovery.
And we all know how volatile the oil price can be.
I just wonder what would happen to the economy, to people’s electricity bills, to our economic recovery, if world oil prices were to double next week.
The global economic recovery, and rising demand from emerging markets, is also likely to keep oil prices high over the long term.
The age of cheap oil is over.
High prices are here to stay.
For the Maldives, a high oil price means a high cost of doing business.
And a high cost of doing business, means that less business is done in the Maldives.
We want to break our dependence on foreign oil.
And we want to utilize our own natural resources, which we have in abundance: the sun, the wind and the waves.
In the Maldives, renewable energy also makes sense because imported oil is so costly.
It is expensive to ship oil to tiny, far flung islands like the Maldives.
The Maldives has some of the world’s highest electricity prices.
The average Maldivian pays 25-30 US cents per kilowatt hour for electricity.
In some remote islands, people are forced to pay 60 cents per kilowatt hour.
Schools complain that 25% of their budgets is spent on diesel for the generators.
So I don’t have to tell you that the high energy prices dampen economic growth and development.
And high electricity bills are a major concern for the people.
In the Maldives, renewable energy is cost effective today.
We intend to take full advantage of the cost savings renewable energy can bring.
And thank you for the offer that has been made by our friends from India. Thank you Your Excellency the High Commissioner for your statement.
There is also a wide economic argument in favour of green growth.
The Maldives’ two biggest industries are tourism and fishing.
People visit the Maldives to enjoy our beautiful beaches and dive off our breathtaking coral reefs.
The coral reefs are also home to thousands of fish and help maintain our tuna stocks.
Fishing and tourism are both dependent on healthy reefs and a clean environment.
Any damage to our environment therefore damages our economy.
And so we are improving waste management.
We are building sewerage systems.
We have also introduced marine parks and a shark hunting ban, to protect biodiversity.
And we hope to soon start work on creating the country’s first carbon neutral island community.
Today, the HCFCs phase-out is added to a growing list of projects.
In many countries, these projects would be considered environmental measures.
In the Maldives, we view them as economic safeguards.
There are also long term strategic reasons for moving towards a new, green development path.
The Maldives is a small country.
We are unlikely to become a major wind or solar manufacturer.
We can, though, corner the market by pioneering zero-carbon, off-grid energy systems.
If we can work out how to cheaply power a Maldivian island with renewable energy, we can export this model to villages across the world.
This will be priceless expertise for a small country.
We are also researching potential new sources of energy, such as tidal streams and ocean thermal energy.
And we are introducing waste-to-energy systems.
We want the Maldives to be an open laboratory for the development of these ideas.
The Maldives may be small.
But what we are attempting in the Maldives, will soon need to be done everywhere else.
I believe we are on brink of a new industrial revolution.
The affects of climate change will force the world, sooner or later, to put a price on carbon.
And when we do that, it will unleash tremendous change.
Renewable sources of power will become cheaper than fossil fuels.
Transport systems will move people around without polluting the air.
And pristine areas will become more costly to exploit and cheaper to protect.
We will witness the most explosive change since the Industrial Revolution.
New global companies will arise, taking advantage of huge new markets.
But this is a competitive contest.
Not every country can be Number 1.
The Maldives is developing a niche in the new economy of the future.
We don’t want to be left behind in this Century’s most important race.
We are what you might call reluctant environmentalists.
We are phasing out the use of HCFCs.
We are implementing measures to protect biodiversity.
We are quitting carbon and embracing green growth.
We take these actions because it makes good economic sense.
We make this change, not only to protect the global commons, but also to safeguard national security.
In short, we undertake this challenge because we want to be the winners, not the losers, of the 21st Century.
Thank you very much.