Bring forward emissions targets: Marshalls

By Elise Scott
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Marshall Islands 'feeling climate effects'

The Marshall Islands government says its people are already feeling the effects of climate change.

The Marshall Islands is calling on Australia to bring forward its carbon emissions reduction target by five years to be in line with the United States.

Foreign Minister Tony de Brum also wants Australia to pledge "significant" funds to help developing nations like the Marshall Islands adapt to climate change and repair damage.

Mr de Brum believes Australia should be a team player and sit down at December's United Nations climate change conference in Paris on the side of the Pacific Islands.

Australia is at the back of the developed nations pack with its pledge to slash emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels and Mr de Brum has been critical of the goal.

The US has committed to the same targets by 2025 and Mr de Brum urged Australia to match that aim.

"If they move the date from 2030 to 2025 with the same figures, that's a very good beginning," he told AAP on Tuesday.

"It's important that our biggest Pacific island be part of our team and not running around saying that coal is the lifesaver of the world."

Several government figures, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, have defended coal as "good for humanity" but Pacific nations are calling for a moratorium on new mines.

Mr de Brum's call for an accelerated target comes after meetings with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who is touring the region to focus on climate change and the risks of rising sea levels.

Mr Shorten promised Labor would release more ambitious 2030 targets based on the country's fair share to limit global warming to two degrees.

"We'll back in the best science," Mr Shorten said, after touring what remains of Anebok island, where nothing but a few rocks poke through the rising waters.

The Marshall Islands - a collection of atolls lying close to sea level - is thought to be on the front line of global warming, with residents already feeling the effects of changing weather patterns and inundation.

The nation's main island, Majuro, stretches about 50 kilometres but much of the atoll is no wider than the length of a football field.

The notion of negotiating in Paris as part of the Pacific Islands team appears unlikely to win over Australia, as the government is firm on the international goal of limiting warming to two degrees.

In September, Australia refused to back a push at the Pacific Islands Forum that global warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees.

An evaluation of the pledges submitted for the UN negotiations shows the world will warm by 2.7 per cent by the end of the century if nations meet their targets.

That is not good enough for the Marshall Islands and Mr de Brum is hoping significant emitters and developed nations such as Australia will shift their positions.

"If we were to take that as gospel we wouldn't be going to Paris," he said.

"We would go under, there's no debate on that issue any more."