In October 2017, Maldives welcomed a special guest; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known for his role as Ser Jaime Lannister in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. This article first appeared in our print Issue No. 6.

He arrived in the island nation to kick off his climate action journey as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.

At the end of his trip, Nikolaj and Shoko Noda, UNDP Resident Representative to the Maldives, talked about the trip they took together and his reflections.

Shoko Noda: We’re so excited to have you here with us in the Maldives. What touched you most during our visit to the islands?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: What struck me most about this country was the Maldivian people – so welcoming and generous.

Because of the nature of these islands, almost every challenge Maldivians face is linked to climate change. I saw just how vulnerable the country is to beach erosion and sea swells* – you can see it in all the islands we went to. This is a huge challenge and it’s only going to get worse. We’ve to help them find ways to cope.

Shoko Noda: What do you think is the most serious climate change issue for Maldives?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: It would have to be water- access to water.

I met this incredible woman, Muna, a teacher from Laamu Atoll. She and her husband had a chili farm. Just a week before harvest, the whole island got flooded because of sea swells*. She took me to the site of the once blooming farm. It was devastating to see all the crops completely damaged. If she had access to fresh water, she could’ve easily saved at least some of the crops, but she lost everything.

Shoko Noda: We went snorkelling as well. How was your underwater experience?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Seeing the different types of fish and all sorts of beautiful marine life in the ocean was absolutely breath-taking! At the same, the amount of coral bleaching that has taken over the reefs is alarming.

This really goes to show just how fragile these reefs are and how important they are to the ecosystem. We need to stop polluting our planet, our home. It’s not going to be easy, but small actions we take can go a long way towards making a meaningful impact.

Shoko Noda: Did you see any action being taken by the community to tackle these problems?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I went to this school where every day some of the kids had to go home because of the heat. So, the students actually made a huge ‘green hall’ over the school compound using cucumber and passion fruit vines.

I also met a group of very passionate young people running an NGO, called Save the Beach. They saw rubbish being thrown all over the beach and plastic going into the ocean. They, too, saw a problem and took action. Now, what they are doing has spread across many of the islands.

Shoko Noda: Do you think there’s hope for the future?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Of course, I believe we can and will work through these challenges. It’s going to take all of us, but the benefits are enormous. Everyone wants a healthy planet. It’s like that famous saying, “We act as if we live on nine planets when we only have this one,” and we’ve to take care of it.

Shoko Noda: What’s your message?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: We haven’t done so well for the past 150 years. At least now we understand that our actions aren’t sustainable. If we want to survive as a species, we’ve to do things differently.

So, get engaged and get others engaged. Take action, on your own and together. It doesn’t have to be life altering. But if everyone does a little bit, we can collectively make a huge impact.

Shoko Noda: What an inspirational message. Thank you Nikolaj for being here with us, and for your commitment to make a difference.

ONE YEAR ON:

The Unite for Climate Action campaign launched during Nikolaj’s visit to the Maldives is a significant step to connect individuals and communities with the private sector to help locals find solutions to issues they face.

One year on, here a look at the Unite for Climate Action Campaign:

In Gaafu Alifu Villingili Island: Island Disaster Management Plan developed.

In Alifu Dhaalu Fenfushi Island: Community Emergency Response Team established and specialized trainings on-going.

In Laamu Maabaidhoo Island: Community Emergency Response Team established and specialized trainings on-going and elevated farm on-going.

*Collection of waves produced by strong storm winds hundreds of miles out from the sea. The high waves often cause floods on islands in the Maldives.

To join us and Unite for Climate Action, please visit: https://give.undp.org/maldives

If you would like to learn more about how you can work with UNDP to support communities and jointly take Climate Actions, please follow link http://www.makemyisland.mv