"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 No. 1 leader in carbon emissions savings per person and No. 1 renewable energy country," Foua Toloa, the head of Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, was quoted by The Guardian newspaper as saying.
"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," Toloa said.
The island nation -- with a total land mass of just 4.7 square miles and a population of about 1,500 -- already sufferers from extreme weather storm surges, droughts, coral-bleaching, inundation of land and salination of groundwater.
In October, Tokelau and neighboring Tuvalu, also a small Pacific nation, declared a state of emergency because of a severe drought in which it became necessary to import water.
To reach its renewable energy goal, Tokelau aims to supply 90 percent of its energy via a $7.5 million, 1 megawatt-solar photovoltaic system, with the remainder coming from domestic coconut oil.
Tokelau expects to cut 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the plant. "No more noisy generators will disturb the quiet of the islands. We will be an example to the world," said Toloa.
With a per-capita income of just approximately $1,000 per year, Tokelau must come up with $900,000 for its share of the $7.5 million project. It expects to obtain financing from the Green Climate Fund, an instrument officially launched at the conclusion this weekend of the U.N. climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.
In 2009 Tuvalu, which is comprised of nine islands, announced it aims to generate all its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
For the first phase of its renewable energy mission, Tuvalu installed a 40-watt solar system atop of the largest stadium in Funafuti. During the first 14 months of operation, the solar stadium reduced consumption of generator fuel shipped from New Zealand by 17,000 tons and saved 50 tons of carbon dioxide from being released in the atmosphere.