The Republic of Palau consists mainly of an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean. Palau is the westernmost island cluster of the six major island groups that make up the Caroline Islands. The main Palau archipelago is located approximately 800 kilometers east of the Philippines and 800 kilometers north of the island of New Guinea. The Palau islands originated on the now dormant southern section of the volcanic Palau-Kyushu Ridge, which formed about 43 million years ago.
The main Palau archipelago stretches approximately 200 kilometers in a predominantly north-south orientation from the atoll of Ngeruangel in the north to the island of Angaur in the south. In addition to the main archipelago, there are five small islands and one atoll (the so-called Southwest Islands) located some 300-500 kilometers to the southwest of the main archipelago and less than 200 kilometers north of the nearest islands of Indonesia. Palau consists of 586 islands, of which only twelve are continuously inhabited.
The islands of Palau represent five geological island types: volcanic, high limestone, low limestone, atolls, and a combination of volcanic and limestone. The largest islands, such as Babeldaob, were formed by Eocene volcanic activity and are composed of basalt and andesite. They tend to have a high profile, well-developed perennial stream systems and a high diversity of terrestrial flora.
Babeldaob is the largest in the Palau island chain and the second largest island in Micronesia. It constitutes seventy-five percent of Palau’s total landmass. The island has severely leached and highly acidic soils, unsuited for large-scale agriculture. The world-famous ‘Rock Islands’ are of limestone formation. Kayangel atoll, at the northernmost tip of the archipelago, is a classic coral atoll. Peleliu and Angaur, located at the southern end of the main archipelago, are low platform and reef islands. The Southwest group of islands, 300 to 500 kilometers to the southwest of the main archipelago, is made up of reef flats that have been subjected to uplift and one atoll (Helen Reef).
The country’s 2015 climate change policy articulated four strategic priority areas for Palau. They are:
- Climate change adaptation, which aimed to establish enabling frameworks in the areas of agriculture and fisheries, health, biodiversity conservation and natural resources, society and culture, tourism, critical infrastructure, utilities, education and finance, commerce and economic development;
- Disaster risk management, which had the vision of empowering vulnerable communities with the knowledge and understanding of the hazards and risks to which they may be exposed and equip the to take appropriate actions to save lives and protect property and the environment;
- Mitigation and low emissions development, which focused on improved institutional arrangements for energy sector management and energy efficiency and conservation, and renewable energy; and
- Institutional mechanisms for effective policy implementation, which focused on establishing a Necessary Institutional Framework and Climate Change Office to build the country’s resilience to climate change and disasters and manage the transformation to a low carbon economy utilising traditional and elected governance systems.