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United Nations, New York

NEWS RELEASE September 18, 2002


Tiny Tokelau, potential victim of rising sea levels resulting from climate change linked to global energy excesses, is setting culprit industrialized countries an example by promoting renewable energy.

With its highest point only three meters (9.9 feet) above sea level, the Pacific island territory, which is administered by New Zealand, is the most vulnerable area in the region to rising sea water. It hopes other countries will emulate its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help save low-lying areas worldwide.

Support from the recently established UNDP [ ] thematic trust fund for energy for sustainable development is enabling Tokelau to participate in a Pacific Islands renewable energy project promoting the commercial use of new, clean energy sources, such as solar power, to replace fossil fuels.

In addition, a new project co-funded by New Zealand, France and UNDP, will soon install solar power units on the islands.

"Our support to Tokelau in the area of sustainable energy is part of the UNDP emphasis on the importance establishing energy sectors that jointly take into account economic, environmental, social and institutional considerations," said Joyce Yu, Resident Representative of the UNDP Office for Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. "It is an example of how limited funds can have big impact, and underlines the links between the environment on the global and local level in a small island developing state."

Tokelau consists of three atolls with a total land area of barely 13 square kilometers (5.2 square miles) and a total population of only 1,500 people. It is situated 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of Samoa and is only accessible by boat once a fortnight.

"Since Tokelau has not caused the global climate change problem, we bear little responsibility for finding a solution," said Falani Aukuso, Director of the Office of the Council of Faipule, Government of Tokelau. "In fact, global climate change will never be measurably affected by Tokelau's activities, since the total carbon dioxide emissions of all the Pacific island countries represents less than 0.02 percent of total world emissions," he noted.

"Nonetheless, from a climate change perspective, a small and extremely vulnerable island nation like Tokelau needs to be willing to follow the same sustainable energy path that we are demanding from the developed world as main emitters of greenhouse gases," Mr. Aukuso declared.

"Island nations worldwide may find it difficult to lobby effectively for global action unless we ourselves are seen to take all reasonable measures to progressively switch from fossil fuels to sustainable energy," he said. "As victims of the energy schemes of the 20th century, the island nations and other developing countries need to become protagonists in the energy developments of the 21st century."

Further information please contact: Thomas Jensen (, UNDP Office for Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau; or Trygve Olfarnes (, UNDP Communications Office. 

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