As Europe and the US remain distracted by economic turmoil, an unlikely band of nations is taking up the climate cause: the small, the poor and the vulnerable, writes President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, for the UK’s Financial Times.
There are many reasons why poorer countries adopt tough greenhouse gas mitigation targets. My country, the Maldives, announced its 2020 carbon neutral target in part to cajole industrial behemoths to clean up their act. If a small nation with modest means can enact a radical plan for carbon-free energy, what excuse do larger, wealthier nations have for dragging their feet?
Environmentalism, though, is only half the story. For many developing nations, particularly far-flung, small-island states, the rush to renewables stems as much from energy security and economic considerations as from climate.
Many developing countries are among the world’s most energy insecure. Their economies run on imported oil and they are held hostage to an oil price over which they have no control. Fossil fuel addiction puts a brake on economic development.
The Maldives spends 14 per cent of gross domestic product on diesel imports – more than on education and healthcare combined. If we continue “business-as-usual” growth, our oil dependency will double by 2020.
As the oil price climbs, the cost of renewable energy such as solar is falling rapidly. Thanks in part to large increases in Chinese productive capacity, solar photovoltaic modules are about half the price they were in 2008. Daytime solar power in the Maldives is now a third cheaper than diesel-based electricity. For many countries without fossil fuel reserves, it makes simple economic sense to switch to clean power.”