Maldives President outlines progress on carbon neutral plan

Posted: 10 October 2011

The Maldives has made significant progress since last year in beginning the move towards becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country, President Mohamed Nasheed announced at the Six Senses SLOWLIFE Symposium at Soneva Fushi resort.

President Nasheed
President Nasheed. Photo © Six Senses

Speaking to assorted guests and dignitaries including the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, the actor and environmentalist Edward Norton, government ministers, journalists and representatives of the global tourism industry, President Nasheed outlined several areas in which the Maldives government has made substantial progress.

These include:

  • Publishing the new carbon neutral electricity plan online and inviting ‘crowd-sourcing’ comments from experts worldwide
  • Committing to a new target to generate 60% of electricity via solar power by 2020, and reducing electricity emissions by 80% without putting up the cost of power to consumers
  • The signing of the first contract under the new ‘feed-in-tariff’ between the state electricity company and a Malé hotel chain to supply solar power onto the grid
  • A new import regime by the Transport Ministry to ensure that in future electric cars will be a third of the price of conventional petrol cars
  • New policies to encourage the uptake of renewable energy and marine transport
  • The pledge to spend 2% of national income on renewable energy deployment in the country

The President said: “We know a low-carbon growth trajectory is possible and we are going forward to do it. While costs of diesel generation in the Maldives can be over 40 cents renewable energy costs can be below 30 cents. It is financially and economically viable.”

President Nasheed added that what the Maldives is doing should be a model for others. “Interest in new technology is a blessing for the Maldives. We won’t save the world by becoming carbon neutral – we emit nothing compared with other countries – but if we can demonstrate a low carbon development strategy that can be copied elsewhere, it will be a step in the right direction.

The President also mentioned how other bigger countries were also beginning to show signs of greener growth. “There are encouraging signs – India and China are listening much more than before. They see the opportunity for renewable energy growth.” However, Nasheed criticised the slow progress at the international talks on climate change. “The UNFCCC is still not able to come out with a clear understanding,” he said, “and I don’t see them being able to do it in the near future either.”

Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Soneva Fushi, Maldives. Photo © Six Senses

Calling for “new thinking”, the President also criticised the “bickering” which was symptomatic of a “divided” world. “Rich countries are led by the world’s biggest debtor, the United States. Poor countries are led by the biggest investor, the People’s Republic of China. Are they poor or are they rich?” Nasheed emphasised that he hoped to show all countries that cutting carbon emissions did not mean staying in poverty.

Addressing delegates, Sir Richard Branson, the founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group, said that governments had to provide additional incentives to support the adoption of alternative fuel sources.

He said: “If we don’t have alternative fuels we are going to have the mother of all recessions. The way to kick-start the revolution is to have no tax on all clean energy while slowly increasing tax on dirty energy.”

Sir Richard Branson and Sonu Shivdasani
Sir Richard Branson and Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of Six Senses. Photo © Six Senses

Sir Richard called on European aviation authorities and airports to do more to reduce the aviation industry’s energy emissions and said that the climate change battle is the “biggest entrepreneurial opportunity of our lifetime”.

He added: "Every single ecosystem is in decline. We must revalue how we value our natural assets and how we reduce our consumption patterns. But it is important for all of us to stay positive. Martin Luther King did not get his message across by saying 'I have a nightmare'."

The SLOWLIFE Symposium was discussing the future of tourism and how the industry can be made more sustainable in a carbon-constrained world. Sonu Shivdasani, the Chief Executive and Founder of Six Senses, which is hosting the SLOW LIFE Symposium, said: “At Soneva Fushi, we are committed to decarbonise by 2013. We are determined to provide the roadmap for others travel and tourism companies to follow – both here in the Maldives and worldwide.”