PORT MORESBY, (AAP) – Seven small island nations are set for a pre-game huddle ahead of taking a do or die message to their big Pacific neighbours on climate change at official talks in Papua New Guinea this week.
The issue is set to dominate the agenda at the Pacific Island Forum in Port Moresby.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill welcomed some of the early arriving leaders on Sunday.
He said it was an important summit for the region because of global economic uncertainty.
The global economy is under pressure and we are seeing an increase in climate induced disasters, so this is a time when countries of like-mind must work together, O’Neill said in a statement.
“We in the Pacific did not cause climate change, but we suffer because of it.”
He said the region must build collective capacity to be ready further natural disasters and rough weather.
The forum kicks off on Monday with leaders from smaller island states – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu – catching up before the main events on Wednesday and Thursday which include Australia and New Zealand.
The small island nations are among some of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change.
Some are less than a metre above sea level and face being wiped out by rising seas.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said he was looking forward to some fruitful discussions and a good night’s sleep after his long journey to Port Moresby.
“We’re a family. We will talk over issues like family,” he told AAP.
Pacific leaders will be pleading with Australia and New Zealand to do more to combat global warming and ensure their survival, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris this December.
The sea is already creeping up on graves on the Marshall Islands and the Kiribati government has bought land in Fiji in case its entire population needs to move.
Leaders are hoping the forum can negotiate a united political statement on climate change.
They want the world to restrict the global warming temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, fearing that a two degrees target will risk the existence of many islands.
Australia and NZ are likely to receive a dressing down behind the scenes over what some consider unambitious carbon emissions reductions targets.
The Abbott government has announced a carbon emissions reduction target of 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 while New Zealand’s target is a cut of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The small island leaders are also due to discuss fisheries, cervical cancer, alleged human rights issues within Indonesia’s West Papua and computer technology and communications.
The Pacific Island Forum runs from September 7-11.