Australia not off climate hook - yet

After years in the climate-action wilderness, Australia is hoping for a nice warm hug when global climate talks begin in Egypt on Sunday.

Observers have no doubt the Australian delegation will get one, after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese did what Scott Morrison wouldn't and legislated improved emissions cuts this decade.

But they say those cuts are only the start of Australia's reputational repair task, and the nation is in for heavy scrutiny at the COP27 talks in the coastal Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

That will be particularly true when it comes to hot-button negotiations on climate finance and loss-and-damage payments for developing nations.

Both issues are at the top of the COP27 agenda, which unlike last year's event is less about new promises and more about the ones already made, or long promised.

One such thing is a new loss-and-damage mechanism - essentially a vast pool of funds to compensate nations for irreversible climate-related devastation that can't be mitigated or adapted to.

The mechanism is a top priority for Australia's climate-vulnerable Pacific neighbours.

"It's going to be very awkward if Australia - given it wants to co-host a future COP with the Pacific - doesn't have the region's back on this," says Climate Council research director Dr Simon Bradshaw.

He says Australia will also face pressure to put new money on the table for climate finance to help developing nations build clean energy systems, cut emissions, and cope with climate impacts.

Australia should, as a first step, add another $1 billion to its existing $2 billion, five-year commitment to international climate finance, Dr Bradshaw says.

"This COP is a golden opportunity for Australia to be getting back in the game, showing it's serious about tackling climate change, rebuilding its international reputation."

University of Melbourne Professor Jackie Peel has authored reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and agrees all eyes will be on Australia's conduct at the negotiating table.

"Certainly there's an expectation it's going to be a more constructive partner in the negotiations than it has before," she says.

"And there's been a lot of talk from the Australian government about wanting to elevate the voices of our Pacific neighbours as part of that reset of its approach to negotiations."

The focus on climate finance and a loss-and-damage mechanism comes at a tough time for the global economy amid spiralling inflation and the energy crisis fuelled by the war in Ukraine.

Fellow IPCC report author and Australian National University Professor Frank Jotzo says most nations that aren't fossil fuel exporters are consumed with dealing with high energy prices.

And that could make finding more climate cash a harder than usual sell.

"It places enormous short term strains on governments' budgets and it bodes really quite badly for climate finance.

"It's very difficult to see developed countries making further commitments to provide climate finance in this context."

In recent days, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama recorded a fiery video message saying Pacific communities would be "erased" on the current warming trajectory.

"Our Pacific negotiators will arrive to Egypt outnumbered by fossil-fuel reps and others who ignore the science and side with the enemy that is uncontrolled carbon emissions," he said.

"But they do not arrive deterred ... we are fully prepared to make Egypt our final stand."

But in comments that may have been aimed at nations that call themselves friends of the Pacific, he said trust and solidarity "might" be salvaged.

But developed nations would need to come though with a post-2025 financing framework in the order of $US750 billion.