As with Fiji, the Marshall Islands is already on the path to clean energy. After decades of the wide use of diesel generators, the outer islands now see 95 percent of their power come from solar energy. There are also plans afoot to develop ocean thermal energy strategies to further move away from nonrenewable sources.
At a New York event leading up to today’s summit, Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony DeBrum said he hoped his country would serve as an example of climate change adaptation. He also hoped his country’s actions would spur others to follow its lead with their own green strategies.
But a move to renewables is not the only action being taken by small islands in the Pacific.
Other nations, under the assumption that it is now too late to remove the threat from rising tides, have begun buying land on higher ground. Scientists predict a one-to- two-meter sea level rise by the end of the century.
Kiribati has already bought land in Fiji, de Brum said, and nearby Tuvalu is exploring options in Australia and New Zealand.
Porotesano said American Samoa, like other Pacific islands, is already experiencing extreme weather as a result of climate change, the likes of which may be commonplace in years to come.
“I’ve been through two bad hurricanes, and I missed the third one, and, speaking to my parents, that’s not something they had to deal with,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s a new story that our generation will have to tell.”
Like residents of small island states, many indigenous peoples are already feeling the effects of climate change despite minimal contributions to carbon pollution. After decades of exploiting fossil fuel and forests, corporations are increasingly encroaching on indigenous lands to find these resources, rights groups say.
Candido Mezua Sálazar, chief of the Panamanian tribe Embera Wounaan Comarca, told Al Jazeera he attended the conference with a coalition of indigenous people from three continents.
“We are aware that climate change is affecting indigenous lands,” he said. “There’s more pressure on our territory and resources.”
He said the coalition called on the U.N. to create an indigenous people’s territory climate fund “so that we can continue to use our knowledge to protect the forest.”