MALE: The Maldives, one of the countries most at risk from rising sea levels, will not attend this year's Copenhagen summit on climate change because the atoll nation is broke, its president said yesterday.
President Mohamed Nasheed told reporters in the capital Male that his newly-elected government had no money to fund his visit to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.
"We can't go to Copenhagen because we don't have the money," Nasheed said, adding that he was staying away to set an example of cost-savings to the rest of the government.
Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, said the one-billion-dollar economy was in serious trouble with the budget deficit shooting to a record 34 percent of gross domestic product.
A one-meter rise in sea level would almost totally submerge the country's 1,192 coral islands scattered off southern India, making the exotic holiday destination a cause celebre in the fight against climate change.
Nasheed has also raised the possibility of his government buying a new homeland for his people to flee to in the future, with Sri Lanka, India or Australia mooted as options.
He said Maldives was hoping that the world's leading countries would agree to take steps at the Copenhagen conference in December that would help low-lying nations escape submersion.
He said he hoped that the summit would focus on renewable energy and transferring cleaner technology to developing nations.
Nasheed has also laid out a plan for the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims to be the first to go carbon neutral by 2020 by moving away from fossil fuels and tapping wind and solar energy.
The island's economic woes stem from its dependency on revenues from tourism, which have declined due to the global financial crisis.
The government wants to cut 15,000 jobs in the 39,000-strong civil service and increase revenues by levying a $3 tax per day on holiday makers in the exotic tourist destination.