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Ali Nishan/AP
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed

Maldives Aiming for Carbon Neutrality

March 17, 2009 12:04 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
In its latest effort to combat the potentially catastrophic impacts of global warming, the Maldives aims to become the first carbon-neutral country.

Nasheed Pledges Decade-Long Shift

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Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed announced that the archipelago "will shift entirely to renewable energy over the next decade to become the first carbon-neutral nation," swapping fossil fuels for less damaging forms of power, such as wind and solar, according to Reuters. The Maldives will also offset carbon emissions from visiting tourists by purchasing and destroying EU carbon credits.

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

Climate change is hardly the only difficulty confronting the Maldives, reports the Times of London. Nasheed discussed his country's lack of basic necessities, including housing, clean water, health care and education. Heroin addiction is also a major problem, affecting 30 percent of youth in the Maldives, where 75 percent of inhabitants are under the age of 35.

"Every evil you think a society could have has found a home here in the Maldives," Nasheed told the Times of London. 

In November, Nasheed told U.K. newspaper The Guardian that his government would allocate some of the money from the country's billion dollar tourism industry to create a "sovereign fund" for the purchase of new land on higher ground. The archipelago is low-lying, and could sink if climate change continues at its current rate. The government had already discussed the idea with several countries, including Sri Lanka, India and Australia.

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Background: Sinking Maldives

According to CNN, Scientists predict that the coral islands that make up the Maldives, most of which lie less than five feet above sea level, will sink if climate change continues at its current pace. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that sea levels in the country will rise by at least 7.1 inches by the end of the century.

Related Topic: Climate refugees

Even if all goes as Nasheed plans, Maldivians may not be the world’s first climate refugees. That distinction goes to the residents of Papua New Guinea’s Carteret Island, according to a recent report by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Not everyone, though, agrees with the UN's assessement.

Scientists warned in 2007 that climate change could create 200 million climate refugees within the next century. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that temperature rises predicted by 2050 could devastate ecosystems, disturb food and water supplies, and bring about the extinction of animal and plant species, in addition to rising sea levels, floods and droughts.

The troubles of the tiny, low-lying Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu has been used by some environmentalists to illustrate what could happen to the rest of us if global warming worsens. Tuvalu, where the highest elevation on the main island is only 3.7 meters above high tide, has seen rising sea levels and changes in tide patterns.

Key Player: President Mohamed Nasheed

Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed is a 41-year-old former journalist and political dissident who was once named an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. A fierce critic of the long-serving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who left office Nov. 10 after a 30-year rule, he was arrested several times and spent long periods of time in jail for his political opposition. The BBC reported on Nasheed’s rise to power: “To his supporters Mr. Nasheed is a latter day Nelson Mandela ... But his critics say that he has little policy-making experience beyond his direct action campaigns against the government."

Reference: The Maldives

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