The irony is that while these states have not contributed much to greenhouse emissions, as they produce very little, they may face some of the worst consequences.
As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with all its people living a few meters above sea level and over two-thirds of its critical infrastructure lying within 100 meters of the shoreline, a sea level rise of just a few meters will put the nation further at risk, endangering its relative prosperity.
Thankfully Maldives is beginning to turn the tide.
Yesterday I visited Fuvahmulah, in one of the southernmost atolls where the Mayor and the Ministry of Environment, have been working closely with local communities to manage the wetlands, critical for reducing climate change impacts.
I saw scores of young Maldivians enjoying the facilities and learning about conservation. A true win-win. Community participation has helped enhance the design and acceptability of this initiative.
Scaled up, such initiatives can have a transformational impact and it is imperative that the Government of Maldives take the lessons from this Bank supported initiative to 19 other atolls.
Creating a safer archipelago
The Indian Ocean tsunami that battered the islands in 2004 provided a glimpse of what can happen – a clear wake-up call.
The government responded by increasing its emphasis on building resilience in infrastructure and providing its people with early warnings in the event of an underwater earthquake.
Today, in the Greater Malé region, the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé is being developed with better sea defenses and elevated buildings from where people can be evacuated as needed.
The government is also raising people’s understanding of the causes and effects of natural disasters, particularly those that come on suddenly, such as tsunamis and flooding.