MALE, Maldives, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Copenhagen said Tuesday it will see to it that the Maldives can attend the December U.N.-backed conference on climate change, one day after the flood-prone island nation's president announced it lacks the funds to participate.
Danish Development Minister Ulla Tornaes told The Copenhagen Post that she will contact the United Nations to make sure that the Maldives is aware it is covered by a trust fund established by the United Nations to help smaller nations participate in the meetings. Denmark is the largest contributor to the fund.
Some 190 countries will gather for the Copenhagen summit to draw up a new agreement on reducing emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which expires in 2012.
The vulnerability of the low-lying Maldives to climate change makes its presence at the Copenhagen meetings -- and a successful outcome -- key to its survival. More than 80 percent of the nation is less than 1 meter above sea level and, according to a 2007 study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in sea levels by 7.2 to 23.2 inches by 2100 could render the Maldives uninhabitable for its 350,000 citizens.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed also proposed on Monday a $3-a-day "green tax" on tourists to help fund projects to convert the Maldives to using solely renewable energy.
With an annual average of some 700,000 tourists who spend an average of three days on the islands, the tax could generate about $6.3 million annually.
In March Nasheed outlined plans to make the Maldives the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade, launching a $1.1 billion initiative to convert the islands solely to renewable energy from fossil fuels.
Ahead of the December U.N. summit in Copenhagen, Nasheed is to visit India in October at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss issues related to climate change.
He told journalists that in New Delhi he plans to talk about the need for developed and developing countries "to treat consequences of climate change as a security rather than an environment issue."
In a New York Times opinion piece shortly after he was elected last December, Nasheed, a former human-rights activist, wrote:
"For the first time in the country's history … the Maldives face a new threat. This new danger is of apocalyptic, existential proportions, and it looms silently, invisibly and menacingly over our azure horizon. I am talking about climate change and rising sea levels."