Why did leaders from the Maldives decide to hold Saturday’s cabinet meeting underwater?

Posted on October 19, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

Image from NYTimes

Image from NYTimes

From NYT DotEarth Blog…

On Saturday, the President, Vice President, Cabinet Secretary and 11 ministers of the Maldives, donned their scuba gear and dove underwater to hold a meeting in order to draw attention to human-induced  climate change and its threat to the low lying island chain. With a population that has doubled in the last 25 years, the Maldives have little land to sacrifice to flooding and storm surges that will be exacerbated by any rise in sea-level. At the underwater meating, officials signed a decleration calling all nations to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions.

When this meeting was planned in March, President Mohamed Nasheed took the lead by annoucing the Maldives’ goal to become the first carbon neutral country and switch to 100% renewable energy within 10 years. In a March op-ed published in The Observer, Nasheed declared:

“In a grotesque Faustian pact, we have done a deal with the carbon devil: for untold fossil fuel consumption in our lifetime, we are trading our children’s place in an earthly paradise. Today, the Maldives will opt out of that pact…Going green might cost a lot but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.”

The Maldives’ plan to move to carbon neutrality includes hundreds of windmills, solar panels on residential rooftops, and a coconut husk biomass power plant. GreenInc reports that this ambitous plan will cost about $110 million/year, a substantial sum for a small country with a tourist and fishing based economy. But leaders from the Maldives were optimistic that the investment is worth it and will pay for itself by alleviating the nation’s dependence on imported oil. However, with the global recession and low oil prices, the plan is not as financially viable as it was originally considered. Last month, the Maldives announced a plan to impose a $3/day tax on tourists to raise money for its climate mitigation efforts.

Unfortunately, even if the Maldives were to completely eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral, it would not make a huge impact in the overall picture because their total emissions are such a small piece of the puzzle. However, hopefully, the energetic leadership of the Maldives on the climate issue is a positive step towards Copenhagen and will inspire other vulnerable and culpable countries think creatively about cutting their carbon footprints and breaking the deal with the “carbon devil”

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