Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Carbon-neutral goal for Maldives

Beach in the Maldives
One-third of the Maldives' economy depends on tourism

The Maldives will become carbon-neutral within a decade by switching completely to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, its leader has said.

President Mohamed Nasheed told the BBC the Maldives understood better than most what would happen if the world failed to tackle climate change.

His tiny country is one of the lowest-lying on Earth and so is extremely vulnerable to rises in sea level.

He said he hoped his plan would serve as a blueprint for other nations.

We start almost from scratch... and it is quite pointless for us to go to yesterday's technologies
President Mohamed Nasheed

Mr Nasheed was due to announce the plan formally after the screening of a new film on climate change, The Age of Stupid, on Sunday.

The Maldives is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited, which lie off the Indian sub-continent.

None of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming.

'Starting from scratch'

"We understand more than perhaps anyone what would happen to us if we didn't do anything about it or if the rest of the world doesn't find the imagination to confront this problem," Mr Nasheed told Newshour, speaking by telephone from the capital, Male.


"So basically, we don't want to sit around and blame others, but we want to do whatever we can, and hopefully, if we can become carbon-neutral, and when we come up with the plan, we hope that these plans also will serve as a blueprint for other nations to follow.

"We think we can do it, we feel that everyone should be engaged in it, and we don't think that this is an issue that should be taken lightly."

It is estimated that the Maldives, which has high levels of poverty, will need to spend about $110m a year to make the transition to renewable energy sources.


Asked how it could afford this, the president said the country was already spending similar sums on existing energy sources, and he expected to recover the extra cost within the decade.

"We start almost from scratch, we are having to go for new investments in almost all areas and it is quite pointless for us to go to yesterday's technologies," he said.

The Age of Stupid stars British actor Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in a devastated future Earth, watching archive film of the planet and asking why more was not done to combat climate change.

The film's producer, Franny Armstrong, told the BBC the Maldives had set a good example to the developed world.

"I think the challenge has now been laid down by the Maldives, a very poor undeveloped country," she said.

"So now it's over to us, to the rich countries."

An international climate change conference is due to be held in Copenhagen in December to debate initiatives for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently urged the world to strike a "conclusive carbon emissions reduction" deal at the conference.

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