03 June 2009

Why should a small country bother to go carbon neutral?

Why should a country that contributes less than 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions bother to go carbon neutral? After all, such efforts will not stop global warming if big polluters refuse to countenance all but token emissions reductions.

Conventional wisdom dictates that small, developing nations should refuse to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. This wisdom suggests that such nations should be lobbying for permits to pollute more, while apportioning blame for climate change squarely on the shoulders of big, industrialised nations.

Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives explains why his nation is taking the unconventional path.

I am sceptical of this conventional wisdom, and of finger-pointing at the West, for neither of these policy positions does anything to help solve the climate crisis.

One thing a small nation can do is show the world that rapid reductions in emissions are possible, practical and profitable.

Since announcing the carbon neutrality goal a little over two months ago, the Maldives has witnessed something of an environmental enlightenment. Dozens of foreign technology and energy companies have approached us, keen to set up pilot renewable energy projects in the islands.

Multilateral funders and development agencies have offered to finance green projects. And local Maldivian companies are starting to pioneer environmentally friendly technologies that could make them world leaders in the green economy of the future.

Carbon neutrality also boosts our tourism industry, as increasingly eco-conscious tourists seek out climate guilt-free destinations.

In time, our economy will also be more stable as it decouples from the unpredictable price of foreign oil and relies instead on cheap, raw materials the Maldives has in abundance: the sun, sea and the wind.

The Maldives should certainly benefit from greening its economy. But it is on the world stage that I hope our environmental efforts will add most value. The Maldives' example provides ammunition to environmentalists and concerned citizens around the world. The common bureaucratic excuse - that drastic emissions cuts are unfeasible - is now a little less credible.

Read the full article
Leading by an achievable example
Mohamed Nasheed, BBC Green Room 2 Jun 09

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