And it’s challenging the rest of the world to follow suit. Last week, at the Durban climate conference, Tokelau, a Pacific micro-state (pop. 1,500; cars — 3) announced that it was going to be using 100% renewable energy next year. 90% of its power will come from a $7.5-million solar PV system. The other 10% will come from home-made coconut oil. “‘If all goes to plan, the three islands of Tokelau will formally lead the world in percentage reduction in the use of fossil fuels, will be number one leader in carbon emissions savings per person, and number one renewable energy country,’ said Foua Toloa, the ulu, or head, of the New Zealand protectorate,” the Guardian reports.
More from Toloa: “We stand to lose the most of any country in the world due to climate change and the rising sea levels, so leading the way by making the highest per person investment in the world is a message to the world to do something…. It took me 64 hours to get here. Before I left, my eldest daughter said: ‘Go challenge the world in Durban to match or better the renewable energy targets we have set ourselves and which we will meet next year.'”
Of course, climate change is slightly (but only slightly) more urgent for Tokelau than for the rest of the world. It is already facing issues such as:
- extreme weather
- strong storm surges
- inundation of land
- groundwater salination
This was the first year in the islanders’ history when they needed to import water. The had to do so follwoing a 7-month-long drought and several cyclones (hurricanes in US lingo) that caused contamination of underground water supplies.
More from the Guardian: “Tokelau’s switch to renewables is expected to encourage scores of other islands. It expects to save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 over the life of the 1MW solar power plant – around 1,600 times the annual CO2 emissions of the average person in the UK. Tokelau will also have no more worries over changing fuel prices and intermittent supplies. ‘No more noisy generators will disturb the quiet of the islands. We will be an example to the world, even though we have done nothing to deserve this,’ said Toloa.”
While some island states are looking to just abandon their idyllic islands (a hard choice, I’m sure), the islanders of Tokelau don’t want it to get to that point and are set on staying at the moment. “We have no intention of leaving. This is a God-given land, we have a culture, a language, an identity and a heritage. We want to preserve Tokelau for future generations,” Tokelau said. But that means they will have to suffer a lot and will be faced with increasing challenges, especially if the world doesn’t act,.. well,.. immediately.
“My heart is heavy. Climate change does not distinguish between colour or race. It is an everyday reality here. It is our life. If nothing comes from this meeting, then we will continue to suffer.”
Tokelau National Flag via shutterstock