A Nauru climate change activist Nerida Ann Hubert says a brain drain and a generation's worth of school drop outs are preventing the country from tackling climate challenges.
Ms Hubert was speaking at a Pacific climate change conference at New Zealand's Victoria University.
She told delegates the government is acting at an international level but the country does not have the skilled people to implement projects on the ground.
She said a renewable energy plan stalled because of a lack of trained locals.
Ms Hubert said people want to participate in projects but they need more training.
"The government knows what they're doing on an international level, or a regional level. They sign this and that. But down the scale not a lot of people know what climate change is. It's the people that will be the manpower to do a lot of this work. You need to bring the communities on board."
Nerida Ann Hubert has urged regional bodies and NGOs to also consult the grassroots when they come in with climate change projects for the island.