DURBAN

Island nation agrees to binding GHG curbs in bid to spur stalled talks

DURBAN, South Africa -- Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said today his tiny Indian Ocean archipelago is willing to take legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets.

In an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, Aslam said his offer comes with no strings attached.

That is, unlike under the current Kyoto Protocol, the Maldives would be willing to sign an agreement that requires it to cut carbon without any promise of financial assistance in return.

"In exchange for nothing. In exchange for us to survive," Aslam said.

The Maldives, which is 8 feet above sea level at its highest point, could easily be submerged if sea levels rise more than 1 meter. As part of the Cancun agreement hammered out last year, the country has promised to go carbon-neutral by 2020.

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Aslam said he is tired of watching the United States and major developing countries shy away from accepting binding reduction targets and has decided to put the Maldive's plan on the table.

"In order to bring them in, the minor emitters like us must show our commitment. We are quite ready to do that," he said. No other countries have yet made a commitment like the Maldives, but Aslam said he is hoping other small island nations and vulnerable countries will join.

Just what kind of influence the Maldives' gambit will have here is unclear. Countries remain torn over both the future of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and what might come after. In particular, countries are deadlocked over whether a legally binding treaty that forces all major emitters to take targets might be on the horizon.

Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, said the Maldives' announcement might add a new "shame" factor to the talks. And Jennifer Morgan, head of climate and energy programs for the World Resources Institute, said it could have a real impact.

"If the Maldives joins with other countries, it puts a lot of pressure on both developed and developing countries alike," Morgan said.

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