Monday, March 16, 2009

Maldives vows to be first carbon-neutral nation

ABC News Online, Posted Mon Mar 16, 2009

The Maldives will shift entirely to renewable energy over the next decade to become the first carbon-neutral nation and fight climate change that threatens the low-lying archipelago's existence, the president has said.

President Mohamed Nasheed said the Indian Ocean islands would swap fossil fuels for wind and solar power, and buy and destroy EU carbon credits to offset emissions from tourists flying to visit its luxury vacation resorts.

"Climate change threatens us all. Countries need to pull together to de-carbonise the world economy," Mr Nasheed said.

"We know cutting greenhouse gas emissions is possible and the Maldives is willing to play its part."

The $US1.1 billion ($1.7 billion) plan would require 155 wind turbines supplying 1.5 megawatts each and a half a square kilometre of solar panels to meet the needs of the islands' 385,000 people.

"We aim to become carbon-neutral in a decade," he said.

The state-owned electricity monopoly will be privatised, with investors and donors invited to take part in the plan.

The program envisions installing battery backup in case wind and solar sources are inadequate, and a power plant to be run off coconut husks in the capital, Male.

The Maldives' economy, based almost entirely on fishing and tourism, is worth about $US800 million a year, so it will need outside help.

Mr Nasheed last year unseated Asia's longest-serving ruler, 30-year incumbent President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the islands' first multi-party presidential election.

Mr Gayoom has become a vocal advocate for mitigating climate change.

Mr Nasheed drew global attention shortly after his election when he said the Maldives would start looking to buy land in other countries to resettle people once the seas rose, but later acknowledged the plan was not feasible financially.

In 2007, a UN climate change panel predicted an increase in sea levels of 58cm, which would submerge many of the Maldives' 1,192 islands by 2100.


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