A Nation Goes Carbon-Neutral

The Maldives has pledged to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2020. The president has hired a team of environmentalists to put the pledge into action.
March 24, 2009, 12pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"The Maldives, a collection of atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean, stands less than two metres above sea level. That means it will probably be the first country to disappear as sea levels continue to rise-and, in the meantime, growing storm surges will make life there parlous.

Yet the Maldives' contribution to climate change is minimal. Fewer than 400,000 people live there and most of those own neither a car nor many electrical appliances. Even the carbon emissions generated by newlyweds flying in for their honeymoons-the mainstay of the economy-are negligible compared with what those holiday-makers generate at home.

Mr Nasheed [the President of the Maldives] has recruited two British environmentalists, Mark Lynas and Chris Goodall, to draft a plan for the Maldives to replace the oil that fuels the country's generators, cars and boats with power from solar panels, wind turbines and biofuels. This, they reckon, will cost $1.1 billion. It will, however, spare the place the expense of importing petrol, diesel and kerosene, and so pay for itself in 10 to 20 years, depending on the price of oil."

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Published on Monday, March 23, 2009 in The Economist
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