The Maldives, one of the countries most affected by climate change, has joined a United Nations Environment Programme initiative which promotes the global transition to low-carbon economies and societies.

The move follows the announcement earlier this year from President Mohamed Nasheed to make the Indian Ocean archipelago the world's first carbon neutral country in 10 years by fully switching to renewable sources of energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines, and investing in new technologies.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stressed that climate neutrality is not just a concern for developed nations. "Developing nations such as Maldives can indeed leapfrog by embracing the low-carbon development model, which will assist in greening their economies and weathering both climatic and economic storms."

Launched a year ago, the UNEP-led Climate Neutral Network has close to 100 participants worldwide, including several countries, cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Maldives � consisting of some 1,200 tropical coral islets, none of which rises more than 1.8 metres above sea level, leaving the 400,000 inhabitants at great risk of rising sea levels and storm surges � has become the seventh country to join CN Net. The other six nations that have pledged to move towards climate neutrality and joined the CN Net are Costa Rica, Iceland, Monaco, New Zealand, Niue and Norway.

"When the most climate change vulnerable nations display leadership in addressing the cause of the problem which they had very little to contribute to, there is no excuse for others not to act," said Mr. Steiner. He urged nations around the world to commit to "protecting the planet and powering green growth by sealing an ambitious climate deal at this year's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen."