Maldives pledges to become world's 1st carbon-neutral country

An island nation in the Indian Ocean threatened by rising water levels has pledged to become the world's first carbon-neutral country within 10 years.
The Maldives, which earn $1 billion a year from tourism, hope to attract more eco-friendly tourists by going carbon-neutral. ((Ed Wray/Associated Press))
An island nation in the Indian Ocean threatened by rising water levels has pledged to become the world's first carbon-neutral country within the next 10 years.

Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, announced his country's plan Sunday after a special screening of The Age of Stupid, a new British film about climate change. The screening at Theemuge, the presidential palace in the country's capital, Male, was attended by numerous government officials including the nation's vice president, ministers and members of parliament.

"Climate change isn't a vague and abstract danger but a real threat to our survival," Nasheed had written in a letter published earlier in the day in Britain's Observer newspaper. "Going green might cost a lot but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth."

The government has been working with international climate energy experts to draw up a plan that will allow the country to achieve its goal, said a government news release Sunday. The plan will involve a "radical shift" from fossil fuel to renewable energy production.

The nation hopes the transition will attract environmentally conscious tourists, the release said. Tourists already generate a billion dollars a year for its economy.

Much of country could be submerged by 2100

President Mohamed Nasheed predicted that changes to make his country carbon neutral will bring prosperity. ((President's office/Republic of Maldives))
Nasheed predicted the changes that will be made as a result of the plan will bring his country prosperity.

The Maldives consist of 1,192 coral islands near the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka, including about 250 that are inhabited by a total of around 400,000 people. Much of the archipelago is 1.5 metres or less above sea level.

Scientists at a meeting in Copenhagen last week predicted that glaciers and ice sheets melting as a result of global warming could boost the level of the world's oceans by as much as a metre by the end of the century.

In his letter in the Observer, Nasheed criticized other nations' response to the threat of climate change.

"Many politicians' response to the looming catastrophe...beggars belief. Playing a reckless game of chicken with Mother Nature, they prefer to deny, squabble and procrastinate rather than heed the words of those who know best."

In November, a month after Nasheed won the presidential election, he announced that the country would begin saving to buy a new homeland in case the nation becomes submerged, saying it was "an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome." That land might be in India, Sri Lanka or Australia, he said.

With files from the Associated Press