UNITED NATIONS, July 18 (Seal News) — A Maldivian official on Thursday warned the international community against the catastrophic effects of climate change, noting that hard-won development gains could be lost easily in climate-related disasters.

“All these efforts (of economic development) will amount to little when we are faced with the catastrophic effects of climate change and environmental degradation,” Maldivian Deputy Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure Fathimath Niuma told a ministerial meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on sustainable development goals (SDGs), which aim to tackle issues including conflict, hunger, gender equality and climate change by 2030.

“In small island developing states (SIDS) like the Maldives, years of hard-earned economic growth could be washed away with one tidal wave,” she said.

“A single natural disaster could reduce entire islands to rubble and force our economy onto its knees,” said the deputy minister.

Niuma called on the international community to pay attention to the challenges and threats facing SIDS, noting that “it is crucial that the international community understands the particular challenges and vulnerabilities of SIDS.”

“No matter how well our economies may progress, SIDS will always remain vulnerable to the catastrophic impacts of climate change and natural disasters,” she said.

Therefore, “the Maldives calls on the international community to accelerate action on commitments already made, in line with the Paris Agreement, to ensure that global temperatures [rise] remain[s] lower than 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” she said.

Climate change has been a sizzling topic at the ongoing meeting.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the opening ceremony of the ministerial meeting that “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at the highest levels in 3-5 million years — and that occurred at a time when the earth’s temperature was as much as 3 degrees warmer and sea levels as much as 10-20 meters higher.”

The meeting of the high-level political forum on SDGs kicked off July 9 to evaluate global efforts to achieve the SDGs that focus on quality education, decent work, equality, climate change, justice and partnerships. The meeting, including a three-day ministerial meeting running from July 16 to 18, is scheduled to conclude Thursday afternoon.

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