In this cross-country analysis of four small and remote islands, we integrate multiple dimensions of socio-economic demographic data, such as population, land area, remoteness, tourist arrivals and earnings, export earnings, financial support, average incomes, fuel and electricity prices, penetration of renewable energy sources, and motor vehicle usage; we compare these characteristics with per capita use of energy carriers such as electricity, petrol and diesel. From these characteristics, we identify key determinants of energy consumption in the islands. Whereas we focus on energy, our analysis also applies to emissions of carbon and energy-related pollutants. Our results indicate that cultural and social contexts are at least as relevant for policymaking as economic and technological aspects. We suggest that in small island developing States there is scope for policymaking to at the same time: reduce economic vulnerability due to dependence on imported fossil fuels; reduce environmental impact; and progress sustainable development. Such progress can be implemented through peer-to-peer learning programmes facilitated by targeted international cooperation and partnerships.