Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Thelma Krug, CEO and Founder of Parley Cyrill Gutsch, Distinguished members of the IPCC, Distinguished members of the International Chamber of Commerce, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is my privilege to address all of you at this august event to commemorate the partnership between the Maldives and Parley in the “Future Island Nation” program.
At the outset I would like to extend our gratitude to Parley for the Oceans for having signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Maldivian Government.
It is indeed very rare for a government to sign an agreement of this nature with a private organization. However, we made this decision in light of Parley for the Ocean’s exceptional global reputation, and because the organization’s priorities are so aligned with our own.
It is my sincere hope that the framework of cooperation established by this MOU’s provisions will facilitate our common goal of keeping our Ocean clean, and free of plastic.
Our traditions, our way of life, even our language have been influenced by the Sea. Protecting this treasured resource is linked to our very survival. There is no overstating just how precious the Ocean is to us.
Ocean pollution not only threatens to compromise the two major industries that form the bedrock of the Maldives’ economy, tourism and fisheries, but threatens to decimate the coral reefs that form our very islands. To us, this is an existential crisis. If the Ocean dies, we die.
Ever since its inception, Parley has sought to harness the full potential of human ingenuity and creativity to the task of cleaning up our Ocean, availing the resources, aid and goodwill of not just governments, environmentalists and scientists, but also artists, entrepreneurs and corporate brands.
I especially wish to highlight Parley’s efforts around reducing ocean plastic. I first met Cyrill in the Maldives some 8 months ago, and his views on plastic are quite eye-opening. Plastic is a design failure. It is a material, with a lifespan far exceeding its utility.
Every year we produce tons of plastic for various short term uses, after which we discard it as waste that neither disappears nor biodegrades.
It is difficult to overemphasize the devastating impact plastic can have on our Ocean in particular.
Due to human negligence and irresponsibility there are currently over 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in our oceans, which are continually being broken down and ingested by marine life, disrupting feeding patterns and upsetting natural equilibriums. Studies show that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our Oceans.
The proliferation of plastic within the food chain makes it likely that humans are already inadvertently consuming micro-plastics, compromising our health and safety.
This is why my administration has stressed a foreign policy intended to raise the profile of environmental issues, placing particular emphasis on the Ocean’s health.
We have so far undertaken several measures intended to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastic in the workplace and in consumer lifestyles. Our aim is for the Maldives to become plastic free by the year 2023.
Further, we have been calling upon businesses to change their practices, urging them to not use plastic packaging and ensure that their products are made of environmentally responsible materials. As an import-dependent country, we need our friends abroad to do their due diligence in regulating their businesses to reduce their plastic products.
The Maldives will strive to set the example and take initiative of our own accord as much as we can. Realistically, however, our efforts alone won’t be enough.
We need the help of not only likeminded governments but also the organized and dedicated efforts of passionate individuals, who are keen on making a difference, and understand the gravity of the situation and the need for large scale behavioral change to be implemented across all levels: locally, regionally and internationally; in public policies, industrial practices and technology trends; as well as in laws and education curriculums.
We will also need the assistance of groups like Parley, who embody the best of environmental activism, combining principled dedication and creative thinking with results-oriented action.
Parley’s local chapter, Parley Maldives, is already very active in our communities, raising awareness on the fragility of our ocean and on the concrete steps that can be taken to protect it.
I am certain that this MOU is a step in the right direction, and will serve as a template for future partnerships.
It is also my firm hope that the international community can soon agree on a comprehensive agreement that will bind them to take concerted action against plastic pollution.
Only by bringing the entire globe’s willpower and resources to bear in this fight can we succeed in our common vision, of ensuring a clean ocean that we can bequeath to the generations that will follow us.
Thank you very much.