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OpEd: World Environmental Day: For island states, both communities and the ocean must be protected from the climate emergency

Opinion Editorial by the H.E. Mr. Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of Climate Change, Environment and Energy and Mr. Bradley Busetto, interim UN Resident Coordinator.

06 June 2024, MVT 12:06
Maldives.-- Photo: UNMaldives / Sifah Saeed
06 June 2024, MVT 12:06

World Environment Day is celebrated every year on 5 June and represents a global effort to raise awareness and encourage action for the environment. Here in the Maldives, this is an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and renew our resolve to overcome the many challenges that threaten our environment and our island communities today.

Maldives is acutely vulnerable to the climate crisis, its low-lying islands are directly threatened by sea-level rise and exposed to the increased climate-affected weather conditions, storms and flooding that Maldives communities are experiencing now. What happens to the Maldives because of the human-induced global climate emergency is also the fate of the world; more than just the Maldives' fight for survival, the lessons learned, and the methods applied in this small island state will be of use for all countries and states, big and small, facing a common global heating threat.

The Government of the Maldives has been working to address and adapt to the challenges of the climate crisis as they affect the people and ocean-side communities of Maldives, people who seek better lives and the opportunity to offer their families and children better homes, livelihoods and lifestyles that have come before. The United Nations is a steady partner in the government's efforts to make a better world possible.

One important pathway is through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 goals, 169 targets, 247 different indicators – a ready-set, collective recipe for a better world, endorsed by the nations and states of the world through the United Nations, and welcomed by the Maldives government as offering benchmarks for progress in the collective health and well-being of the people of the Maldives and insuring the protection of our environment and the ocean around us.

Green Energy

A critical issue for the Maldives is to reduce the use of expensive diesel fuel for energy production and transport between the many distant atolls and island communities. Less diesel fuel use is a win-win: fewer carbon emissions and less foreign exchange spent on costly imported fuel, now the equivalent of 13.5 percent of GDP. International investment is urgently needed to scale-up commercial, private-sector supported solar and other renewable energy sources for Male and other urban areas, for smaller island communities, and resorts. Meeting the Government's goal of 33 percent green energy supply by 2028 is a key priority this Environment Day.

Waste and Ocean Plastics

Maldives has long recognized the inherent limits of small island states where people rely on imported foods and goods. Disposing of waste safely and reducing the amounts of waste that are generated are critical goals for improving the lives of Maldives coastal communities. The Ministry has been vocal about Parliament's decision to reduce the fee on plastic bags being an impediment to the government's efforts to achieve its goals of phasing out plastic usage.

The global threat of plastic waste and litter floating in our oceans is a problem that lands literally on the front mats of the Maldives and imperils the unspoiled beauty of Maldives world-class tourist resorts.

Climate Emergency

Seeking climate financing from global capital funds is essential for the Maldives, on the front line of a rapidly changing climate, changing monsoon patterns and sea-level rise. The need for external climate financing is a moral imperative, for an island state that did not bring about global warming, as the President recently noted at the United Nations Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) conference in Antigua.

Looking forward, the Government and the United Nations offer strong support for new initiatives to protect Maldives unique environment of atolls and islands and to further strengthen Maldives emerging role as a center for environmental knowledge.


The broad biodiversity of Maldives coastal and marine life is the key to the resilience of the interconnected communities of the Maldives, through fisheries, vegetation and economic livelihoods; the Maldives can act as a global laboratory both for oceanic health and for the immediate and dynamic effects of climate change.


Maldives' world-class tourism and its growing importance for the Maldives economy offers challenges and opportunities: reducing the increasing reliance on diesel and fossil fuel sources is a critical must, building a sustainable model for tourist resorts and infrastructure through green energy, reduction of waste and switching to bio or renewable fuels means the Maldives can become a gold-standard for sustainable tourism and offer a blueprint for the global tourist sector.

First Initiative

The UN, with the Govt Ministries of the Environment and Tourism, could host an international conference on sustainable tourism, identifying pathways toward green fuel sources and net zero carbon tourism taking forward the energy and enthusiasm of the SIDS4 conference.

The Maldives, very early on, understood the delicate balance the nation must take on the path to development. Our delicate ecosystems and islands must strike a balance with our very aspirational developmental goals. The Maldives has a proud history of advocating for climate and environmental issues. We will continue this proud tradition.

Under the stewardship of His Excellency President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, the Ministry of Climate Change, Environment and Energy is spearheading several ambitious plans for our environment.

Yesterday, Maldives saw the launch of a national program to plant five million trees within five years. This is in line with our aims of achieving resilience, carbon goals, improving economic livelihoods, and protecting our environment.

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, First Lady Sajidha Mohamed, Vice President Hussain Mohamed Latheef, Second Lady Aishath Afreen, Parliament Speaker Abdul Raheem Abdullah, Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors appointed to the Maldives and the United Nations Resident Coordinator planted trees that were either rare or very rare in the country.

Maldives also launched a national waste management policy and strategy plan. The Magey Saafu Raajje plan is a holistic plan that focuses on addressing the root causes of waste, while at the same time addressing the critical waste management issues.

The Ministry of Climate Change, Environment and Energy also launched the CLEAN program and the initiative towards improving the environment-economics statistics in collaboration with the UN development system and our partners. These two initiatives will harness the energy, creativity, and commitment of our children and youth to bring more climate-forward future leaders while bringing to the forefront more evidence-based decision making for the environment and climate action. We are hopeful that these initiatives will promote a clean environment, with our youth learning invaluable lessons in responsibility, innovation, and community spirit.

These initiatives launched today, combined with the immense portfolio the Ministry is responsible for heralds a fresh chapter in sustainable development for the Maldives in collaboration with our development partners.

The road ahead for the Maldives is clear and quite optimistic in protecting its environment. Maldives will continue to lead the way as a laboratory for other small island states and for all countries facing the climate threat. This underscores the vital importance of fostering existing and new partnerships as well as developing our capacity and resiliency in facing climate induced hardships.

In this regard, partner nations and agencies such as the United Nations, contribute a dynamic role in the tapestry of Maldives. Our heartfelt thanks go to these parties.

This Environment Day, we look forward to broadening and deepening these ties with United Nations and partner agencies, for the betterment of the Maldives.

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