Speech By James Alix Michel, President Of The Republic Of Seychelles, On The Occasion Of The Opening Session Of The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, New Delhi, 3rd February 2011

07 February 2011 | Foreign Affairs

 Speech By James Alix Michel,
 President Of The Republic Of Seychelles,
 On The Occasion Of The Opening Session Of
 The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit,
 New Delhi,
 3rd February 2011
Your Excellency President Hamid Karzai,
Your Excellency President Dr. Leonel Fernandez,
Director General of TERI,
Excellencies, distinguished panel members, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning.
I would like to thank Dr. Pachauri for inviting me to address this very important conference to share experiences and look at the way forward.
As we enter a new decade, we are reminded that this will be the decade where climate change and its consequences for sustainable development will define how we live.
It is not something that we, as world leaders will be able to ignore. We all remember public discontent in many parts of the world not long ago as a result of price surges and restrictions in the sale of basic foods.
Tapping global initiatives and tackling global inerti - our Summit’s theme - illustrates clearly how we must ensure that climate change is top of the agenda of our communities, and top of the agenda of our summits.
In Copenhagen, the world stood together expecting a deal on climate change.  So much hope was generated.  And unfortunately so much momentum was lost.
In the aftermath of Cancun, we have regained some hope. But, our hope needs to be further grounded in an approach that will provide quick and tangible results.
Small islands have consistently asked for atmospheric CO2 to be capped at 350 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 and for the earth’s surface temperature increase to be kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
We continue to repeat this call, because amidst all the debates, amidst all the polemics, we can’t change the facts. The facts tell us that climate change will delay our efforts at sustainable development. The facts indicate clearly climate change will affect our fisheries, our agriculture, our water resources, hence our ability to feed our people. And the facts tell us that climate change will inflict poverty and threaten our very existence as a nation.  
But we will always continue to fight for our right to exist because island nations are on the frontlines of climate change.
I come from a small island nation of only 80,000 people, we have to fight for our right to exist and we are all the first victims.  
But we will not be the last. Climate change knows no frontiers, no national borders. Small countries, large countries, major industrial powers, alike, will all be affected.  No one will be spared. Is the much lauded carbon trading mechanism the solution? is this complex system which allows polluters to continue to pollute by offsetting their pollution against financial compensation, the answer? These are some of the questions we musk ask ourselves
Climate change is undoubtedly the toughest challenge, because it threatens all our efforts at sustainable development. Despite negotiations that have spanned three decades we are still not making the right commitments to address the impacts of climate change, which will have devastating prospects for small islands, and of course low-lying areas of this continent. We’ve seen the impacts of a warming ocean on our coral reefs and we have observed changes in our rainfall patterns to the extent that we have had serious water shortages in the past few months in Seychelles. The threat of climate change is real and the consequences dire.
To move past the global inertia on climate change, we need to tackle climate change hand in hand with sustainable development.
Sustainable development calls us to think about how we are utilizing the earth’s resources to the benefit of today’s generation without endangering the ability of tomorrow’s generation to survive. This includes the way we use energy and the emissions we generate. Such issues, which have taken a global dimension, have significant implications for our local communities, especially in small islands.
In Seychelles, our achievements in conservation have demonstrated that by having a clear development vision, we can make a difference in the lives of our people. In August last year, Seychelles increased its protected land area to 47 %, making it the country in the world with the largest proportion of its territory under conservation. We aim to increase our total land area under conservation to over 50% we believe in integrating development, management and protection of the environment in all aspects of our national development. Our land policies encourage that and our tourism development is heralded as one of the most exclusive and environmentally sensitive in the world. Our people are proud of this vision because it allows us to put sustainable development first on our agenda, and our people at the centre of our development vision.
In small islands, an investment in environmental protection is also an investment in our economic and social well-being for the long term.
But all our investment in the last 30 years can be destroyed within a matter of years by climate change. We cannot fight climate change alone.  We need to take concrete aand decisive action. The major emitters need to take concrete and decisive action.  We need binding commitments and concrete action.
Without them, our ecosystems will continue to suffocate and our people will continue to struggle for their livelihood.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Events of the last 2 years in the world economy have challenged all established development models.
In Seychelles, in 2008 we had to undertake drastic economic reforms to ensure we could cope with the shockwaves that shook the global economy. We are emerging successfully from the crisis and in 2010 we registered economic growth of 5.7%. But the worst is not over.
Despite these strides, we are painfully aware of our vulnerabilities as a small island state nation. Our people face a number of challenges brought to the fore by inertia at the global level. Whilst we have been able to develop, we remain extremely vulnerable to external global shocks as a small nation.
In the world today, there is regrettably a disconnect between the resources that we depend on, and their consumption. The person who buys a can of tuna does not feel the pain of the fisherman who is struggling to feed his family, at the same time trying to avoid pirates, and increase his efforts due to shifting fish populations as a result of warming oceans.
And so to get rid of our inertia, the voices of those local fishermen and farmers need to be heard. We must listen to those whose livelihoods are being affected, listen to the cries of the children. And the global community must listen to the plea of small island states.
Instead, the trends of global governance show we are moving towards increased marginalization of small island states rather than increased support. The rules will have to be changed. We could start by democratizing the Bretton Woods institutions to make them more relevant, more responsive to contemporary realities. The global governance architecture has to be modified to reflect justice, fairness and realism. 
The most recent UN Human development report completely ignored 10 Small Island Developing States and left them unranked.  Small islands have been asking for increased recognition for many years. Small islands have been asking for increased recognition for many years. The reality is that small islands are at real risk of falling between the cracks of international development architecture.
But we refuse to just disappear. We have a right to exist as nations. We speak eloquently of human rights. Indeed, some have appointed themselves as champions of human rights. This is all well and good. But what about our right to exist as a people, as a country, as a nation? When some make decisions or pursue obstinately principles to maintain their own economic targets and interests at the detriment of the wider community of nations are they not creating conditions for whole nations to disappear from the face of the earth? Is that not another form of crime against humanity?
Despite the challenges, we still believe that a corner can be turned. All economies can make huge efficiency gains by reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Small islands’ vulnerability is in large part exacerbated by dependence on fossil fuels.  Our next challenge is the transformation of our economy from one depending on fossil fuels to one which embraces more sustainable forms of energy, such as renewable energy. We are currently planning to put in place a number of wind turbines in our country Seychelles,, and we are exploring a number of options for solar energy.  
Many other small developing countries are serious about tapping into alternative sources of energy. But we are hampered in our efforts by financial constraints and access to cheap finance. Investment in solar and other alternative sources of energy should be funded, as a matter of priority, by rich industrialized nations.. With the money they have acquired through polluting and destroying the earth's atmosphere, they could help smaller developing countries to implement those technologies. They should help address water constraints, stop the spread of deforestation, introduce clean energy and, as a result, improve the daily life of our people, and secure the survival and well-being of future generations.
The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is an example of the drive that can be generated from within the developing world. It should become the DAVOS of the developing world! In this summit we can bridge the gap between promises and pledges and achievable action.  We can breach the inertia. We can drive sustainable development. We can address climate change without affecting the economies of the developing nations.
India has achieved phenomenal growth in recent years which is also driving the world economy. It has assumed the mantle of an economic giant with grace and humility.  Seychelles is proud to be able to stand with India as it strides across these new frontiers.
Renewable energy is the next frontier which can transform the world economy.  India has pioneered several innovations in renewable energy, water resources management and sustainable agriculture, to name a few, and is today poised to sustain its growth potential through technologies and practices that are sustainable.
In Delhi, we can sense that the solution to climate change does not need to be a zero-sum game. We can sense that it does not need to be an ideological fight which pitches developed countries against developing nations.  We sense that it does not need to be about big countries and small countries.
It is about people.  It is about humanity. We still hope and we still believe.
Thank you for your attention.

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