Wellington, New Zealand, 11 April
– Knowing exactly how much GHG Tokelau emits to
the atmosphere was one of the key components of a report released today in Wellington.
The first estimates of Tokelau’s GHG emissions, now published in New Zealand's
Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990–2017 (NZ Ministry for the Environment (MFE), 2019),
indicate that the entire nation of 1,500 people emits 2.86 thousand tonnes of carbon
dioxide (CO2-e) per annum. This is less than 2 tonnes per person per year.
“I am grateful to NZ experts that worked with our experts to produce this very important
and timely report” Hon. Kalolo, Tokelau Minister for Climate Change said.
“We all know that small Pacific islands – especially atolls like Tokelau – are affected
by climate change. Yet globally, we have contributed the least amount of CO2 to
the atmosphere that causes climate to change and the sea level to rise. We knew this
by intuition, but Tokelau now has the scientific evidence to support it.”
“Limiting global warming requires all nations, big or small, to reduce their carbon
emissions,” said Mrs Paula Faiva, Programme Manager of the Ministry of Climate,
Oceans, and Resilience (MiCORE).
“Identifying and quantifying the key sectors and sources of Tokelau GHG emissions
help us to develop cost-effective low carbon mitigation response measures, as laid out
in our national climate change strategy, 2017-20301”
The report’s calculations for Tokelau were conducted by the Tokelau National
Statistics Office in consultation with the New Zealand’s inventory experts to ensure
adherence to the international inventory reporting rules under the UNFCCC.
Even Tokelau’s tiny emissions from other “strong” greenhouse gases such as those used
in fridges and freezers, and even asthma puffers were taken into account and included
in the total.
The input data for estimating emissions from Tokelau were provided by the National
Statistics Office (TNSO) from a variety of sources, such as the Censuses of Dwellings and
Populations that are being held in Tokelau every 5 years. These and various other
sources were used to interpolate intervening years, and cast back to 1950 or to 1990,
the latter being the year, for which international calculations and comparisons started in
The attached ‘Summary for Policy Makers and Media’ providesthe keymessagesfromthis
For further enquiries, contact Ms Paula Faiva, Programme Manager, Climate
Change, MiCORE. Office phone: +685 - 20822 / 20823 Mobile: +64 4 210 470 167,
For more information, including links to the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory
1990-2017, Tokelau Living with Change Strategy and Implementation Plan,
2017-2030, go to: www.tokelau.org.nz
SUMMARY FOR POLICY MAKERS AND MEDIA
We all know that small Pacific islands – especially atolls – cop the worst effects of
climate change. Yet globally, they have contributed the least amount of carbon dioxide
(CO2) to the atmosphere that causes the weather to change and the sea level to rise.
We knew this by intuition, but Tokelau now has the hard data to prove it. The evidence
comes from a joint project between the Tokelau Ministry for Climate, Oceans, and
Resilience (MiCORE) and the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment (MFE).
Under the rules of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), each participant country or signatory must make an inventory of its contribution
to global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). New Zealand is no exception and it has
produced an annual report to that effect since 1994.
However, the latest report has a special, 26-page chapter and 89 pages annex, that deal
exclusively with GHG emissions from Tokelau.
Input data were provided by the Tokelau National Statistics Office (TNSO) from a
variety of sources, such as the Censuses of Dwellings and Populations that are being
held in Tokelau every 5 years. These and various other sources were used to
interpolate intervening years, and cast back to 1950 or to 1990, the latter being the
year, for which international calculations and comparisons started in earnest.
Invoices paid in 2018 provided detailed information on how much fuel Tokelau used on-
island, and also for its ferries Mataliki and Kalopaga. Prior to that year, much of the
shipping was done by charters whose fuel use data was much more difficult to obtain
due to commercial confidentiality. An analysis of Tokelau imports from Samoa in the
last 5 years also provided essential information. Several assumptions and educated
guesses had to be made to calculate the time series.
So how much GHG does Tokelau actually emit? As the Tokelau Minister for MiCORE, the
Hon. Faipule Kelihiano Kalolo put it at the Climate Change Conference of Parties in
Katowice ( Poland) recently: “Ever since Tokelau switched over from diesel generators
to almost 100% solar power, its emissions have reduced to half of next to nothing.”
How do Tokelau’s numbers stack up? The first estimates, now published in New Zealand's
Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990–2017 (MFE, 2019) indicate that the entire nation of
1,500 people emits 2.86 kilo tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum, or less than
2 tonnes per person per year.
Tokelau changed over from diesel generator-based electricity production to almost self-
sufficiency in solar power, in September/October 2012. This led to a reduction of diesel
imports by about 80 percent, hence a drastic drop in emissions from energy production.
Since then emissions have crept up a little due to inefficiencies in the system (such as
wear of solar cells and batteries in the harsh tropical salty environment). Use of fridge-
freezers, air conditioners, and motor cars in the atoll villages has also increased.
And what is the percentage of Tokelau’s GHG contribution to New Zealand’s gross
emissions? It turns out to be 0.004 percent, so below the “significance threshold” of 0.1
per cent of the national total emissions for UNFCCC reporting. Nevertheless, it is a very
useful value indeed to have in hand. In future years, the team will aim to refine the
estimates and provide an even more precise value of GHG emissions.
Note that under the international GHG accounting rules, travel between international
ports is reported but does not contribute to a country’s total emissions. The ferry
Mataliki and freight ship Kalopaga each make the return trip Apia-Tokelau
approximately fortnightly; however only the diesel they use when travelling between the
atolls within Tokelau is counted.
Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. It comprises 3 atolls, 60 and 90
km apart, each with a single village counting about 500 people. There is no access by air,
only by ship. The nearest port is Apia, the capital of Samoa, lies about 500 km to the
This work would not have been possible without participation from the Tokelau
Department of Finance, and the Department of Transport and Support Services; the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (New Zealand), the Ministry for the
Environment (New Zealand), the Ministry of Business, Innovation and
Employment (New Zealand), and the Ministry for Primary Industries, (New
Zealand) are also gratefully acknowledged.
The PowerPoint “Project Greenhouse Gas Tokelau - If we can, you can?” was presented
at COP24 in Poland, December 2018, can be found at