Press Release
July 13, 2009

Rising sea levels threaten RP, Maldives - Loren

Maldives, July 13 - Sen. Loren Legarda, United Nations "champion" for climate change adaptation in Asia-Pacific, today appealed to rich countries to help save vulnerable island nations like Maldives and the Philippines from the disastrous effects of climate change.

In a visit to this island country in the Indian ocean, Loren noted that Maldives, like other islands in the Philippine archipelago, is being threatened with obliteration by rising waters due to global warming caused by climate change.

She warned that the "basic right to life" of the Maldivians and other island inhabitants, is being threatened by climate change caused by excessive carbon emission from rich and industrialized countries.

Loren pointed out that climate change has clear human rights implications including "the right to food, the right to water, the right to take part in cultural life and the right to life itself."

Loren, who is also chair of the Philippine Senate committee on climate change, issued the statement following her meeting with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and her on-site visit to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami-rehabilitated islands, constantly threatened by rising sea level.

Loren, the UN's Champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for the Asia Pacific region, led a UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction delegation in an advocacy mission to Maldives.

In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami caused a wave of up to 4.7 meters in Maldives, killing 82 with 26 missing. The tsunami also destroyed 15,000 homes, and damaged a large number of hospitals, schools, transportation and communications infrastructure.

Loren noted that a one-meter rise in sea level could submerge 80 percent of the 1,192 islands in Maldives. "In our country, the Philippines, the same rise in sea level can affect 28 of our 81 provinces, obliterating the country's coastal settlements and livelihood," said Loren.

She lamented that though Maldives, like other developing nations, has contributed less to the problem of climate change, it is on the brink of destruction as the threats of climate change become more and more visible in its peripheries.

"This injustice, however, is not taken with bitterness by the people of Maldives. Instead, they speak out, take bold actions and strive to address this problem which would not only benefit their own, but also the people of the world," she declared.

Maldives has announced its aim to be the first carbon-neutral country in the world in 10 years, cutting its usage of oil and shifting it to renewable energy. It promotes the use of solar panels, wind turbines, biomass plants and renewable resources not only in industry and home use but also in transportation.

"In my visit to the Maldives, I have witnessed the country's innovative move on climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as on disaster risk reduction. I admire the Maldivian leaders for their bold and sophisticated approach in the future to secure their country and their people," Loren further explained.

Loren challenged world leaders to learn from the example of the Maldives and its people, to help safeguard the right to life of people living in small islands,

She appealed to "world leaders to heed the call of these vulnerable countries for immediate action. Rethink development to address growing disaster risks and its human rights implications. And the time to do it is now."

Earlier, Loren had promoted the proposal of former UN Secetary-General Koffi Annan for rich countries to contribute more to climate change, being largely responsible for the toxic gases that pollute the atmosphere and caus climate change.

Loren also proposed that rich countries should contribute to the cost of risk reduction by forgiving the foreign debts of developing countries that tackle climate change.

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