Malcolm Turnbull

Pacific Island nations accuse Australia of failing to 'bat for neighbours'

US President Barack Obama, poses for a photo with heads of state from small island nations most at risk from the harmful effects of climate change. Source: AAP

Pacific Island nations are standing firm on loss and damage finance at climate talks in Paris while accusing Australia of struggling with its position.

Kiribati believes Australia is struggling with its position on climate change, preventing the nation from going into bat for its Pacific neighbours at major climate talks in Paris.

President Anote Tong is among leaders of some of the world's most vulnerable islands calling for big polluting nations to stand up at the United Nations summit and ensure their survival.

As the richest country in the region, Australia faces Pacific calls to push for a strong deal that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees.

But so far, Mr Tong hasn't seen evidence of that from the Australians.

"They've not been doing any batting at the moment for us," he told AAP in Paris on Tuesday.

"I think they're struggling with their own position at the moment, I think we should let them work that out."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the summit on Monday, defending Tony Abbott's emissions reduction targets but indicating flexibility to boost them.

Mr Turnbull is well known for his strong commitment to climate action, however has so far stuck firm with his predecessor's policies.

Australia and New Zealand refused to sign on to the 1.5 degree goal at this year's Pacific Islands Forum - a move Mr Tong labels "a difference of opinion".

Most richer nations have committed to limiting global warming to two degrees.

However, it's understood Australia is working behind the scenes in Paris for the 1.5 degree goal or at least the vulnerability of the Pacific Island nations to be referenced somewhere in the agreement.

The Pacific Islands also want compensation or loss and damage included in a Paris agreement, which is expected to be a red line for developed nations like the United States.

In an attempt to find a compromise, United States President Barack Obama met with a Pacific Island delegation, including Mr Tong, on the sidelines of the summit on Tuesday.

Following the meeting, Mr Tong confirmed the Pacific wouldn't be backing down.

"We've got to dig our feet in on this," he said.

"Otherwise any agreement would have no meaning for us."

There's suggestions that instead of loss and damage - which could suggest liability for developed nations - risk insurance or disaster preparedness could be included in the text.

Kiribati is behind a Pacific call for a moratorium on new coal mines, something both Australian political parties have ruled out.

Mr Tong is less than impressed with their reasoning.

"I keep hearing this argument that it's about the poor," he said, responding to the excuse that coal is necessary to lift people out of energy poverty.

"Well, we are the poor and we will disappear.

"I don't think it's about the poor, it's about the rich."

Australian Greens senator Larissa Waters, who is in Paris to keep tabs on the Australian negotiations, said that argument was the "delicious irony" of the government's position.

"Australian coal is the most expensive option," she told AAP.

"It's a joke to say that our coal is alleviating poverty."

Mr Tong said Australia's emissions from coal were ultimately owned by the Pacific Islands, which are on the frontline of climate change.

"So surely, we have the right to tell you not to pollute our air," he said.

"Australians are listening but, as I always say, politicians don't have compassion, they have elections."

Senator Waters believes Australia has a responsibility as a nation that caused climate change to help Pacific neighbours.

Mr Turnbull confirmed at the conference on Monday Australia would direct at least $1 billion over five years from the existing aid budget to climate finance for vulnerable nations.

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