The Government of the Maldives and La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild (CTBR) have agreed a strategic partnership to take-forward the country’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2020.

The exclusive agreement was inked on Monday, during a meeting between President Nasheed and Baron Benjamin and Baroness Ariane de Rothschild at Chateau de Pregny, the Rothschild’s Geneva residence.

Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam signed the agreement on behalf of the Maldives; Baron Benjamin de Rothschild signed on behalf of CTBR, and Baroness Ariane de Rothschild signed on behalf of BeCitizen, the Rothschild’s environmental advisory arm.

Under the agreement, CTBR will be mandated to secure international finance to fund a carbon footprint audit and Master Plan for the Maldives. Once funding is secured, BeCitizen will undertake a two-month assessment of the Maldives’ “carbon footprint,” detailing emissions from all sectors of the economy, including transport, housing, tourism, energy production and waste management.

Once the audit of the Maldives’ carbon footprint is complete, BeCitizen will develop a detailed Carbon Neutral Master Plan, which will outline precisely how the Maldives can meet its 2020 carbon neutral goal. The carbon audit and the Carbon Neutral Master Plan are due to be completed during 2010.

CTBR will then assist the Government, where requested, to secure international finance and investors to implement the various projects, such as wind farms, waste recycling plants, sustainable transport solutions, foreseen in the Master Plan. The projects will be conceived, structured and implemented as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Finance will be sourced from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IFC, private investors and international markets.

Speaking after the signing of the agreement, President Nasheed said:

“The Maldives wants to set an example, by demonstrating that a country can develop without having to pollute the planet. After all, it is not carbon we want but development, it is not coal we want but electricity, it is not oil we want but transport. The Maldives aims to grow but we want our growth to be green.

“With the 250 year old financial expertise and reach of the Rothschilds, and the environmental know-how of BeCitizen, I am confident this partnership will enable the Maldives to make rapid inroads into its national carbon footprint.”

Benjamin & Ariane de Rothschild added:

“We congratulate the Maldives Government and the people of Maldives on their ambition to become one of the first states to be Carbon Neutral. Such a statement of intent is not only important for reasons of moral leadership in tackling climate change - the greatest challenge facing the world today - but also because it places the Maldives at the head of the pack in the transition to a low-carbon world.

“Together, the joint efforts the of Maldives government, its people, and The Edmond de Rothschild Group will make this ambitious objective a reality by 2020.

“The Edmond de Rothschild Group is convinced that, as well as helping Maldives becoming carbon neutral, the partnership will spur domestic economic growth and new revenue-generating business opportunities for the country.”

CTBR, which manages assets of around 20 billion US$, is one of the financial arms of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, heir to one of the most famous names in global banking and finance, which has nearly 137 billion US$ under management, and employs 2,500 professionals in more than 30 offices worldwide. BeCitizen is a strategic and environmental finance company and is majority owned by CTBR.

In March 2009, President Nasheed announced the Maldives’ intention of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020. Under the Copenhagen Accord, the Maldives also made a unilateral commitment to become carbon neutral by 2020, in effect, reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 100%.