Minister of Defence Uza. Mariya Ahmed Didi, Cabinet Ministers, Vice Chief of Defence Force Brigadier General Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef, High Commissioners, US-Indo-Pacific Command Director of Logistics Brigadier General Gavin Gardner, Distinguish guests, Ladies and gentlemen;
And a very good morning to you all.
First of all, let me welcome all the foreign dignitaries and participants to the Maldives.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to the government of United States and the US Indo-Pacific Command for partnering with Maldives to host this year’s Indo-Pacific Environment Security Forum.
This is the first time this conference is being held in-person, since the Covid-19 pandemic. And we’re very happy to be able to receive delegations from across the Indo-Pacific family of states.
Your participation in this forum shows the commitment of our countries to work together to address the common and critical problems of climate change, environmental security, and associated challenges.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Climate change poses an existential threat to the Maldives. Our islands are only 2 metres above sea-level, therefore we are vulnerable to sea-level rise. We rely on the sea for fisheries, so ocean acidification and the depletion of tuna stocks effect our livelihoods. Tourism, the main source of income, is heavily reliant on our clear lagoons and pristine beaches. Thus, any adverse effect on them would result in the collapse of our economy. Climate security is a matter of national security. Climate security also means social stability and economic permanence for the Maldivian people.
The urgency of the climate crisis is undeniable. The predictable weather patterns that we relied on for thousands of years have become more severe. Climate change is making catastrophic impacts globally. While, the Maldives, famous for being the “sunny side of life”, has been experiencing rigid storms and choppy seas, this year, we heard about “heat advisories” and saw news headlines on “how to survive heat waves” in countries like the United Kingdom and the US.
We heard reports on the many lives lost due to the heat wave in UK. Meanwhile, in the US, the extreme heat fuelled fast-moving wildfires in California that destroyed thousands of hectares of a pristine national park. Climate change is no longer a nuanced, convoluted problem of the smaller, developing states.
It is for this reason, that His Excellency the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration, has taken several landmark initiatives and policy decisions both at national and international level to protect our oceans, preserve our environment and combat climate change. It is our aim to show leadership with our actions and advocate for greater efficiency, in spite of the size of the Maldives on the global sphere. We aim to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2030 by adopting cleaner sources of energy. President Solih has also made the decision to ban the import, production and sale of specific kinds of single-use plastics, aiming to phase-out their use completely by the end of 2030. This administration has also designated 79 marine areas as protected sites. This year we began segregating waste for the first time in our history under a nationally implemented plan.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
The intersection of climate and defence is a challenging area, but it is also an interesting area that requires critical focus. There is evidence to indicate that climate and environmental changes precipitate conflicts and violence – which in turn, impacts the security forces of a nation. Defence forces are called to attend disasters and emergencies, especially in extreme weather events. In the past two months, our defence force, along with the National Disaster Management Authority had engaged in crisis management when we were experiencing severe weather conditions in the Maldives. Our soldiers braved through the uncompromising weather to ensure that the people were relocated safely; they oversaw dewatering in the islands and took precautionary measures to avoid further flood damage. Right now, we are facing a new kind of threat – and it is not the conventional “threat” that soldiers and security forces were equipped to handle. It is crucial to be prepared because traditional peace-keeping methods such as negotiation and arbitration are not options when we face the threat of climate change.
I’m pleased that this forum would be addressing important and relevant issues over the next four days. The intersection of climate and defence would create stimulating dialogue amongst peers that are gathered here. I hope that knowledge and expertise are shared and that innovative and sustainable solutions are presented in the coming days. Forums such as this bring together like-minded people working towards the same goal and act as critical expertise sharing platforms.
Once again, I would like to thank the US Indo-Pacific Command for co-hosting this event. My appreciation also goes to the Minister of Defence and the leadership of Maldives National Defence Force for taking the best care of our guest on behalf of the host country. I wish all of you a successful forum.
Thank you all.