Pacific heads together on climate change

Solutions to climate change and putting pressure on the world's biggest emitters is the focus of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' retreat.

The meagre carbon reduction targets of Australia and New Zealand will face scrutiny on Thursday when Pacific Island leaders try to come up with climate change solutions.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and Australian minister Jacinta Collins are among 15 leaders attending a retreat at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands.

The key issue at the retreat for low-lying nations, such as the Marshalls, Kiribati and Tuvalu, is addressing climate change - or facing a future under water.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Phillip Muller says he wants the leaders in attendance to become leaders again.

"We feel in the Marshall Islands that the urgency of the issue has begun to diminish and we need to regroup, we need to get the leaders to again become the voice of climate change, not only in the region, but in the international community," he said.

He is confident that despite their size, the small - and very vulnerable - nations can affect change.

"If we don't speak up, no one is going to speak up. There is still time, we can still do something."

Kiribati's President Anote Tong says countries such as his, which are threatened by rising seas, severe weather and ocean acidification, have no choice but to find an effective solution to climate change.

"If we keep talking about this, we may not be here the next time you are sitting here," he told media.

Mr Key and Ms Collins will have to defend their countries' carbon emissions goals for 2020 in the face of criticism from some leaders.

New Zealand's target is five per cent below 1990 levels, while Australia's is at least five per cent, and up to 25 per cent, below 2000 levels.

The targets are paltry compared with European Union states' commitment of 20 per cent below 1990 levels.

Ahead of the leaders' retreat, small island politicians sent a strong signal they expect the larger Pacific nations to increase their commitments.

"I know they have set their targets at what some have said is still below the acceptable standard, but I think we all need to sit back a little bit and re-examine how we can try to provide more ambition," Mr Muller said.

His colleague, Minister in Assistance to the President Tony de Brum, has previously called New Zealand's commitment meaningless, but toned down the rhetoric at a press conference alongside other small island leaders.

"We still do consider Australia and New Zealand to be our big brothers in the south, and to that they must take more positive and open leadership in climate change," he said.

Mr Key, who has been in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro for two days, says he understands those concerns, but it's important the world's biggest emitters get involved.

Leaders will on Thursday endorse the new Majuro Declaration, a statement urging countries to set bold carbon reduction targets and take meaningful action to combat climate change.

On Friday, they'll take the declaration to a post-forum dialogue with big emitters such as the US, China and India in hope - however unlikely - that it may effect change in their carbon emission policies.

Source AAP

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