Pacific islanders set to win race to become world's first carbon-neutral nation

by Published Wed 22 Jul 2009 12:24, Last updated: 2009-07-22
Tuvalu will be the world's first carbon neutral nation

The tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is set to become the first of the world's 195 countries to become entirely carbon neutral.

Ten countries have been battling it out to achieve the greenest of all titles and be crowned with the top UN-backed eco accolade.

Costa Rica, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and Monaco had been the front runners in the environment programme race to go entirely zero carbon.

Costa Rica was understood to be leading the race by announcing it was on schedule to have a neutral impact on the environment by 2021.

But now the rulers of the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu have revealed they are on target to have all its energy needs provided by renewable sources a year earlier in 2020.

Tuvalu, located midway between Australia and Hawaii, has announced it is raising the £12 million needed to build sufficient solar and wind power generators to meet the electricity needs of its 12,000-strong population.

Currently the nation, which is comprised of four reef islands and five coral atolls and covers an area of 26 square kilometres, relies on powering its generators with 5,000 litres a day of imported diesel from New Zealand.

Tuvalu last year installed its first large-scale solar energy system through a programme headed by Japan's Kansai Electric Power and Tokyo Electric Power. Both are members of e8, a non-profit organisation of 10 utilities from the G8 countries.

The grid-connected 40kW solar array cost £350,000 and is installed on the roof of the main football stadium in the capital, Funafuti, generating five percent of the town's energy needs. Plans are now in place to expand its capacity to 60kW.

Tuvalu is now counting on help from the US and Italian governments to build solar power systems on its outer islands.

Later this year, a 46kW solar power system costing £650,000 will be installed at a school in Vaitupu, the nation's largest island. The project is being funded by the Italian government.

One UN member state has already claimed the title when the Vatican City said its activities were completely carbon neutral. However, it was ruled that offsetting its entire emissions through planting a forest in Hungary was not in the spirit of the competition.

Costa Rica planned to reach its 2021 goal by also relying heavily on planting trees to soak up emissions. Last year it planted five million of them, a world record, and the banana industry – the country's largest exporter – has promised to go carbon neutral.

The other countries participating in the Climate Neutral Network are Ethiopia, the Maldives, Niue, Pakistan and Portugal.

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