The pioneering new president of the Indian Ocean nation announces plans for his country - under grave threat from climate change - to go carbon-neutral in a decade
The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, will today unveil a plan to make his country carbon-neutral within a decade. The announcement comes only days after scientists issued stark new warnings that rising seas caused by climate change could engulf the Maldives and other low-lying nations this century.
The president will formally announce the scheme - and make a plea for other countries to follow the Maldives' lead - this evening, following the world premiere of The Age of Stupid, a major new climate change film in which a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055 looks at old footage from 2008 and asks why people didn't stop climate change when they had the chance.
Nasheed approached British climate change experts Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas to help develop the radical carbon-neutrality plan. The pair worked on a package of measures that could virtually eliminate fossil fuel use on the Maldive archipelago by 2020.
The plan includes a new renewable electricity generation and transmission infrastructure with 155 large wind turbines, half a square kilometre of rooftop solar panels, and a biomass plant burning coconut husks. Battery banks would provide back-up storage for when neither wind nor solar energy is available.
The clean electricity would power not only homes and businesses, but also vehicles. Cars and boats with petrol and diesel engines would be gradually replaced by electric versions.
Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, led the development of the clean-energy package. He said: "The Maldives could just give up. Its people could declare themselves climate change refugees and ask for sanctuary elsewhere. But the new government is taking a stand and asked us to give them a plan for a near zero-carbon economy.
"We don't want to pretend that this plan is going to be easy to implement. There will be hiccups, and electricity supply will occasionally be disrupted. But we think that building a near-zero-carbon Maldives is a realistic challenge. Get it right and we will show the apathetic developed world that action is possible, and at reasonable cost."
The Maldives is one of the world's lowest-lying countries, with 385,000 people living mainly on land less than two metres above sea level. The country would be rendered almost entirely uninhabitable by a rise in sea levels of one metre.
Lynas said: "The Maldives is in the front line of climate change. It is perhaps the most vulnerable country in the world. If nothing is done to cut global carbon emissions, the country will sink beneath rising seas this century. It is a poor country, but here we have a government that is throwing down the gauntlet to the rich, highly polluting countries."
The Maldives plan is not the first national carbon-neutrality target. Norway is aiming to be zero-carbon by 2030. However, the Maldives scheme is more ambitious - not just in terms of its 10-year timetable, but also because it aims to totally decarbonise the local economy. By contrast, the Norwegian scheme allows a large slice of domestic emissions to be offset by investments in forestry schemes overseas.
The cost for the package of low-carbon measures is estimated to be about $110m a year for 10 years. The scheme should pay for itself quite quickly, because the Maldives will no longer need to import oil products for electricity generation, transport and other functions. If the oil price were to rise to $100 per barrel, the payback period would be as short as 11 years. At current prices, it would take roughly twice as long to break even.
Nasheed said: "Climate change is a global emergency. The world is in danger of going into cardiac arrest, yet we behave as if we've caught a common cold. Today, the Maldives has announced plans to become the world's most eco-friendly country. I can only hope other nations follow suit."
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016