In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the landmark Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote peace and prosperity for all by 2030. Four years since its ratification by the UN member states, the outlook on SDGs remains mixed as some are upbeat despite major hurdles while others continue to doubt that all 17 goals will be achieved within the given target.
No matter the differences in our position, SDGs undoubtedly symbolize the international community’s common aspiration to attain sustainable development amidst the ever-growing threat of climate change.
It is welcoming to see that many governments, as part of their commitment, have been integrating SDGs into their respective policies. Government and private sector entities, as well as various civil society groups, are also working hand-in-hand to achieve a flourishing future for all, where finite resources are used with due regard to the needs of the next generation. It is a future that thrives as a result of fierce protection of the environment.
If we continue our cross-sectoral collaboration and cooperation, coupled with strong political will and active participation of everyone in society, not just concerned groups and entities, attaining the 2030 Agenda is not going to be far-fetched.
For many years, the Maldives has been one of the stronger voices in the world calling for the implementation of immediate and concrete actions to mitigate the serious impact of climate change. This global phenomenon, without a doubt, threatens the very existence of living species on earth, including humans.
The environment is our immediate concern in the Maldives. As a small island developing state, we are part of the list of nations that are most vulnerable to radical changes to the climate. We are vulnerable as well to small tidal surges and rising global temperatures that give rise to extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, coastal erosion, coral bleaching and flooding. All these kill hundreds of thousands of people all over the world yearly.
These alarming factors and more have long opened our eyes to the urgency of prioritizing the environment and promoting sustainability first. This is also why we have implemented and are continuously implementing policies and programs that are aligned with 17 SDGs, particularly those that deal with good health and well-being (Goal 3); quality education (Goal 4); gender equality (Goal 5); clean water and Sanitation (Goal 6); affordable & clean energy (Goal 7); climate action (Goal 13) & life below water (Goal 14).
Also, the many resorts on the islands and local inhabited islands serve as partners in the government’s environmental protection initiatives such as management of marine protected areas and Maldives as a network of Biosphere Reserve, while sustainable fishing practices, including the ‘pole and line’ technique, is widely being promoted. Meanwhile, the country is actively pursuing renewable energy & energy efficiency sources as it bids to establish a low-carbon economy.
More than anything, we need to look after our environment. As we live on one planet, the 2030 Agenda entails united efforts and consistent coordination from all of us. Consistent cooperation among local, regional, and global stakeholders is the only way to ensure climate resilience and build a more sustainable world for the present and future generations.
Like what we are doing in the Maldives, innovation and people empowerment are the key to achieving SDGs apart from cooperation. Despite pressing challenges, the country remains committed to combating climate change and helping sustain global gains in our common quest for sustainable development. We still have a long way to go and hope is not lost if we continue to pursue and work as a single unit towards our goals.
Thoriq Ibrahim is the former minister of environment and energy, Maldives