13 April 2009: Climate leadership by the Maldives

The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, is aiming to make his country the first 100% renewable economy (for electricity, heat and transport). The Maldives has 400,000 citizens and all the islands are low lying, so seriously threatened by rising sea levels. Nasheed’s plan includes more than 150 wind turbines, hundreds of thousands of solar panels and a biomass (in this case, coconut husks) power plant. Fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and boats will be replaced by electric ones.

The plan will cost around $110 million a year over a decade. It should pay for itself quite quickly, because the Maldives will no longer need to import oil. Nevertheless, $110 million is a lot of money for the Maldives. It makes no difference to the global climate whereabouts in the world carbon is emitted (although, the altitude does make a difference, which is why flying is more damaging than the straightforward carbon emissions indicate). Therefore, the international community should fund the Maldives’ renewables revolution.

It is unlikely that the world will be using 100% renewable energy until 2040, so bridging technologies are also needed. This month has seen encouraging progress on carbon capture and storage (CCS). At a gas power station in France, Total has invested €60 million retrofitting CCS technology, and it will become operational later this month. The project will capture, transport and store 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year in a nearby gas field, which was once the biggest onshore gas field in Europe, but is now almost empty. New CCS demonstration projects also are due to start operating this year in the US and Australia.

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