Failure by the Maldives to become carbon neutral by 2020 would be a “complete disaster” for the country, President Mohamed Nasheed today warned during a government unveiling of an audit of the nation’s carbon footprint.
The Maldives’ 2009 Carbon Audit aimed to compile the country’s current carbon footprint in relation to its current energy reliance. The document was fully funded by France-based financier La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild, which will also help to outline and find funding for a “Carbon Neutral Master Plan” to help the country set up how it can begin to meet its aims.
The 2009 audit, which was carried out by BeCitizen, an environmental consultancy based in Paris, France, found that 1.3 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) was emitted by the Maldives, with about of half of these emissions coming from diesel power generation.
These emissions corresponded to 4.1 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per individual. By way of comparison, India records 1.7 per person per year, China 5.5, France 9 and the United States 23.5.
Domestic transportation on both land and sea contributed 22 percent of the nations CO2 output during 2009, with the fishing industry and waste treatment processes amounting for 13 and 15 percent of the total output respectively, the audit added.
BeCitizen, of which La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild is a major shareholder, says that in looking ahead to developing a ten year strategy for a national low-carbon overhaul, six main areas needed to be focused on. These focuses include ensuring greater energy efficiency –such as in more efficient domestic appliances and thermal insulation – and the practical use of renewable energy forms like solar and wind power.
The environmental consultancy also pointed to adopting greener forms of transport, waste management programmes and carbon sequestration in areas such as biomass as important focus points to try and cut the existing environmental impact fo the Maldives.
Speaking via a live link up, BeCitizen’s Flora Bernard claimed that it would be possible for the government to become carbon neutral tomorrow if it simply relied on offsetting to compensate for its total carbon footprint.
Offsetting is the practice of engaging in development projects that can provide both provide benefits both to society as well as the climate – such as planting of forests in an attempt to reduce CO2 within the air.
However, Bernard added that such actions were “missing the point” and that a focus on finding sufficient alternatives would be needed.
“Achieving carbon neutrality by 2020 is possible,” said Bernard in a statement. “It will primarily involve the country becoming energy-independent, while ensuring that the solutions also bring other environmental benefits in terms of carbon storage, resource management and biodiversity conservation.”
The high profile of the Maldives’ sustainable aims meant a failure to meet such goals would be unthinkable, Nasheed said.
With the Maldives a key model for other countries seeking to become more sustainable, an inability to meet the unilateral commitments would prove detrimental to wider arguments around the globe for adopting law carbon initiatives, Nasheed said.
If the country did, then “God help us”, the President said. His carbon neutral pledge is thought to be the toughest set out by any nation under the January 2010 Copenhagen Accord.
Despite having yet to pass a 2011 budget for the country within local parliament, Nasheed said that funding for the carbon neutral scheme would come from garnering interest in development among the private sector.
Pointing to a number of inhabited islands in the country without sufficient electrical supplies, he claimed that new investment projects could look beyond traditional fossil fuels as a source of energy to lower carbon alternatives without setting back development.
The President added that with a number of countries showing an interest in low carbon economics, or concern about the potential impact of global warming, there was a generally strong global political desire to find alternative energy investments and solutions.
Within the currently fractious domestic politics of the Majlis, a source in the President’s Office said that the argument for adopting and committing to a so-called Carbon Neutral Master Plan would need to be “well structured” to make it through parliament.
However, the source claimed that the president hoped the potential economic benefits of adopting more renewable power sources could be a strong incentive for business and political interests if efficient solutions could be found. The need to move away from the often volatile market of fossil fuels was described as another key concern for the country.
Just last week, environmental organisation Greenpeace told Minivan News that the Maldives acted more as a symbol than a practical demonstration of how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive.
Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International, believed that the Maldives can nonetheless play an iconic role in promoting the potential benefits of adopting alternate energy programmes.
In looking specifically at the Maldives being elected as Co-Chair of the SCF, the Greenpeace spokesperson accepted that the country is somewhat limited by its size in the role it can have as an advocate for more sustainable business and lifestyles.
“By coupling both strong words and the need for the big emitting countries in the developed and the developing world to reduce their emissions sharply, with a strong commitment at home, the Maldives has gained respect,” Trio explained.
“However, obviously none of the big emitting countries are looking at the Maldives as an example, as they all claim that their social and economic development cannot be compared to that of a small island state.”