The landlocked republic of Malawi, formerly the British colony of Nyasaland, has a land area of 45,747 sq. mi. (118,484 sq. km.), a population of 13,925,000 (2006 est.), and a population density of 282 people per sq. mi. (109 people per sq. km.). About 34 percent of the country is arable, with a further 20 percent used for meadows and pasture. In addition, 50 percent of the country is forested.
As for the production of electricity in Malawi, 97 percent comes from hydropower, with only 3 percent from fossil fuels. The introduction of hydropower was remarkably recent, with the first water turbine and generator brought into the country in 1966 and installed at Nkula Falls on the Shire River in 1966, with plans having been drawn up for it as early as 1942. As a result of this reliance on hydropower, and the country remaining largely undeveloped, per capita carbon dioxide emissions were 0.1 metric tons in 1990, falling to 0.07 metric tons by 2003, far lower than most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Eighty-two percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the country are from liquid fuels, 6 percent from solid fuels, and 12 percent from the manufacture of cement.
By 1995, the population had reached the limit at which it could be sustained on the existing arable land of the country, and from then on, parts of the country experienced occasional shortages of firewood. The effects of global warming and climate change are expected to impact heavily on Malawi, which has already experienced periods of drought throughout its history, leading to migrations around Lake Nyasa. However, there are extensive underground water resources in the country, and these have been tapped since the 1950s, providing a water source that could help Malawi through a short period of drought.
The Malawi government ratified the Vienna Convention in 1991 and took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, which they ratified in 1994. It accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on October 26, 2001, which took effect on February 16, 2005.