Climate: Time running out
Seoul - The president of the Maldives warned on Friday that the world is running out of time to stall climate change and said he hoped a UN climate summit in Mexico this year would put the international community on track to adopting a new global warming treaty.
A UN summit in 2009 in Copenhagen was largely seen as a disappointment for failing to set crucial binding targets for reducing carbon emissions by industrial countries. The Copenhagen Accord also does not require developing countries to limit the growth of their emissions, where most of the increase will occur over the next decades.
"We have a window of 10 years, and if we don't do something in those years things might turn to tipping points," said President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives in an interview in Seoul, where he received the UN's highest environmental award.
"We've lost the opportunity in Copenhagen," he said. "When we go to Mexico... or perhaps later in South Africa... hopefully we will be able to come up with a framework where we will have an understanding." The conference in Cancun, Mexico, is scheduled to begin in late November.
Nasheed's country, a low-lying archipelago in the Indian Ocean, would be among the earliest victims of rising seas as glaciers melt due to global warming, and Nasheed has become a vocal advocate of climate change policy.
He held a Cabinet meeting underwater last year to raise awareness of the issue and pledged to make the nation, with a population of 350 000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation by 2020.
Carbon neutrality refers to achieving an equal balance of the amount of carbon dioxide - the leading greenhouse gas - emitted and the amount offset through measures such as the use of alternative energy sources including wind or solar power.
He also announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the Maldives' 1 192 coral islands are submerged.
On Thursday, after receiving the 2010 Champions of the Earth award at the Business 4 Environment conference, Nasheed said the current level of international effort to combat climate change is not enough and urged nations with high carbon emissions to aim for bigger reduction goals. He returned to that point again in Friday's interview.
"Ambitions are not as much as we would like it to be and we would especially like to see big emitting countries like the US, China and India coming up with ambitions to maintain a healthy level in the atmosphere," he said.
Nasheed tempered optimism with concern that time is running out.
"I still believe in human ingenuity but we're fearful that that might be very late in the day," he said of the future.