Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed on Monday lamented what he termed as the lack of progress being made in international climate change negotiations and called on poor, vulnerable countries to show “moral leadership” by shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

He was delivering the inaugural address at the ‘Climate Vulnerable Forum’, which is meeting in the Maldives on Monday and Tuesday.

An e-mail statement posted by Maldivian Presidential Secretariat said that delegates at the Forum include President Tong of Kiribati, as well as foreign and environment ministers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, and representatives from Barbados and Bhutan.

China, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, the UK and the United States are attending the Forum as observers.

Mr. Nasheed completes one year in office on November 11. Multiparty, multi-candidate elections were held in the Maldives, for the first time in its 44-year-old independent history, on October 9, 2008, with five candidates running against incumbent President Abdul Gayoom. An October 28 run-off between Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, a former journalist and political prisoner, resulted in a 54 per cent majority for Nasheed and his vice-presidential candidate Mohamed Waheed.

As a country that is threatened most by the rise in sea level, the Maldives has the status of a front-line state in the debate on climate change.

Since assumption of office Mr. Nasheed has been marketing the nation of 1, 200 coral islands as a frontline state on climate change. Of the 1,200 islands, 200 are inhabited and nearly 100 have been made tourist resorts.

The Maldivian President and his team have seized the opportunity presented by the climate change conflict between the developed and developing countries to showcase the Maldives as a textbook case in the search for answers to some of the complex questions on global warming and the threat of an environmental catastrophe.

In his address to the United Nations climate summit in New York on September 22, Mr. Nasheed had called upon world leaders to seize the historic opportunity at the Copenhagen climate summit to be held in December. He asked world leaders to “discard [the] habits that have led to 20 years of complacency and broken promises on climate change”.

In his speech to the Climate Vulnerable Forum on Monday morning Mr. Nasheed called on fellow vulnerable, developing countries to embrace a carbon neutral future.

“We are gathered here because we are the most vulnerable group of nations to climate change. Some might prefer us to suffer in silence but today we have decided to speak… we will not die quietly,” Mr Nasheed said.

“To my mind, countries that have the foresight to green their economies today will be the winners of tomorrow,” the President added.

Mr Nasheed called on developing countries to break away from carbon-based growth and embrace green technology as a way to shame larger polluters to clean up their act.

“A group of vulnerable, developing countries committed to carbon neutral development would send a loud message to the outside world. If those with the least start doing the most, what excuse can the rich have for continuing inaction?” he asked.

“At the moment every country arrives at [international climate] negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible. This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide. We don’t want a global suicide pact… we want a global survival pact,” the Presidential Secretariat quoted him as saying.

Mr. Nasheed told the Forum, “We gather in this hall today, as some of the most climate-vulnerable nations on Earth. We are vulnerable because climate change threatens to hit us first; and hit us hardest…We are a diverse group of countries. But we share one common enemy. For us, climate change is no distant or abstract threat; but a clear and present danger to our survival.

“Climate change is melting the glaciers in Nepal. It is causing flooding in Bangladesh. It threatens to submerge the Maldives and Kiribass. And in recent weeks, it has furthered drought in Tanzania, and typhoons in the Philippines. We are the frontline states in the climate change battle.

As per the office of President Nasheed the aim of the gathering is to amplify the voices of vulnerable, poor nations.

In March this year, the Maldives announced plans to become the world’s first carbon neutral nation. The carbon neutral plan includes proposals to switch from oil to 100% renewable energy production.

Earlier this month, President Nasheed unveiled plans to build a 75 Mega Watt wind farm in North Male’ atoll, which would provide 40 per cent of the country’s electricity and cut the Maldives’ carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter.