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The Maldives aim for carbon neutrality

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The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has announced a plan to make his country carbon-neutral within a decade. The announcement comes only days after scientists issued stark new warnings that rising seas caused by global warming could engulf the Maldives and other low-lying nations this century. The plan includes a new renewable electricity generation and transmission infrastructure with 155 large wind turbines, half a square kilometre of rooftop solar panels, and a biomass plant burning coconut husks. Battery banks would provide back-up storage for when neither wind nor solar energy is available. The clean electricity would power not only homes and businesses, but also vehicles. Cars and boats with petrol and diesel engines would be gradually replaced by electric versions. The Maldives is one of the world’s lowest-lying countries, with 385,000 people living mainly on land less than two metres above sea level. The country would be rendered almost entirely uninhabitable by a rise in sea levels of one metre. The Maldives plan is not the first national carbon-neutrality target. Norway is aiming to be zero-carbon by 2030. However, the Maldives scheme is more ambitious – not just in terms of its 10-year timetable, but also because it aims to totally decarbonise the local economy. By contrast, the Norwegian scheme allows a large slice of domestic emissions to be offset by investments in forestry schemes overseas. The cost for the package of low-carbon measures is estimated to be about $110m a year for 10 years. The scheme should pay for itself quite quickly, because the Maldives will no longer need to import oil products for electricity generation, transport and other functions. If the oil price were to rise to $100 per barrel, the payback period would be as short as 11 years. At current prices, it would take roughly twice as long to break even.