Mohamed Nasheed: Why we are opting out of this pact with the devil

Mohamed Nasheed: Climate change isn't a vague and abstract danger but a real threat to the Maldives' survival

Barely a day goes by without scientists warning us of the looming climate change catastrophe. Last week, experts meeting in Copenhagen reported dangerous new cracks in polar ice that could lead to dramatic sea-level rises.

Scientists also cautioned that unless the world wakes up to warming, 85% of the Amazon rainforest could die.

For the Maldives, a nation of tropical coral islands just 1.5 metres above the sea, these warnings come with added bite. Climate change isn't a vague and abstract danger but a real threat to our survival. But climate change not only threatens the Maldives, it threatens us all.

The level of warming and associated sea-level rise that would inundate the Maldives could also tip climate change beyond man's control. If the world can't save the Maldives today, it might be too late to save London, New York or Hong Kong tomorrow.

Many politicians' response to the looming catastrophe, however, beggars belief. Playing a reckless game of chicken with Mother Nature, they prefer to deny, squabble and procrastinate rather than heed the words of those who know best.

In a grotesque Faustian pact, we have done a deal with the carbon devil: for untold fossil fuel consumption in our lifetime, we are trading our children's place in an earthly paradise. Today, the Maldives will opt out of that pact.

At the premiere of the new film The Age of Stupid, the Maldives will announce it is to become the world's first carbon-neutral country. Spearheaded by a switch from oil to 100% renewable energy production within a decade, the Maldives will no longer be a net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Making this radical shift to carbon neutrality won't be easy. But where there is a will, there is a way. In some parts of our country, carbon neutrality is already a reality. Soneva Fushi resort, for instance, will go carbon neutral this year and zero-carbon next. Its prominent place in Condé Nast Traveller's Gold List demonstrates you don't have to do away with luxury to be eco-friendly.

People often tell me caring for the environment is too difficult, too expensive or too much bother. I admit installing solar panels and wind turbines doesn't come cheap. But when I read those science reports from Copenhagen, I know there is only one choice. Going green might cost a lot but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.

• Mohamed Nasheed is the president of the Republic of Maldives

Mohamed Nasheed

The GuardianTramp

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