President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has underscored the urgency of the climate crisis in his address at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) by stating that the Maldives' is determined to not passively wait on the climate front, citing overwhelming scientific evidence that the climate emergency would be catastrophic to humanity.
Addressing the GA at New York City, President Solih mentioned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, stating that it had reiterated what the Maldives had already known for a very long time. From the report, he highlighted how the past five years had been the hottest years on record since the records started in the mid-nineteenth century, and how the rate of sea-level rise had tripled in comparison to the period 1901 to 1970.
President Solih also advised the potential solutions, such as reaching net-zero by 2050; how global emissions needed to be reduced by 45% by 2030, and limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. He stated that the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is a death sentence for the Maldives, noting that we already have a 1.1 degree Celsius increase in the warming of the planet. He stated “existential threat”, “risk of disappearing” and “ecological refugees” are all phrases that are commonly used to describe the plight of small island states such as the Maldives. However, the President warned that bigger nations would soon catch up with the state of “environmental ruin” that small countries endure if current trends continue unabated.
To further emphasise the urgency of the climate crisis, President Solih had brought with him letters from young Maldivian children who had written to him with the hope of sharing their pleas for the future of world climate, as well as their vulnerable home, with the GA. He called on wealthier nations to help smaller nations receive the support they need in the form of capacity building, technology transfers and financial resources to ramp up the defences in the climate fight, noting that giving up our addiction to fossil fuels and adopting cleaner, smarter technologies for our energy use, is crucial.
President Solih expressed his hope that the day is not lost, stating that the Maldives aspires to be more than another cautionary tale of what happens when nature and the destructive forces she can unleash are not respected.
In an effort to meet Maldives’ key climate ambitions, President Solih, in May 2021 ratified the Climate Emergency Act, which outlines the framework to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2030. In accordance with the new Act, the President had also appointed a Special Envoy for Climate Change, to advocate for climate crises, internationally. The government also aims to phase out Single-Use Plastics by 2023, and the implementation of a ban on the import of single-use plastic products, which was initiated in June 2021.
President Solih had announced yesterday, during the UNSG's Climate Moment, that the Maldives remains on track to reduce emissions by a quarter by 2030.