Some of the most vulnerable places in the world to live in the face of climate change are islands. Rising sea levels, contaminated ground water, and increasing severity of storms are just some of the many threats to island communities. Many island residents also pay extremely high energy prices, due to limited domestic resources and the need to import fuel long distances. Switching to renewable energy can not only decrease fuel expenditures for many island populations, but can also show the world what can be done in the face of climate change.
Tokelau (population: 1,500) is an island nation in the South Pacific, made up of three atolls whose highest point is only five meters above sea level. Even though the New Zealand protectorate’s contribution to climate change is miniscule, it faces grave threats to its very existence. In 2011, at the Durban Climate conference, Foua Toloa, the head of Tokelau, said the island would be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2012. By October of that year residents accomplished their goal, becoming the first country in the world to produce 100 percent of its electricity from the sun.