By Lisa Martin
Small island nations vulnerable to climate change are the pioneers and trailblazers returning balance to the Earth, a meeting of Pacific leaders has been told.
Palau president Tommy Remengesau made the rallying cry as he opened a special meeting of seven small island states in Port Moresby today.
Leaders from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu are catching up ahead of the wider 16 nation Pacific Island Forum leaders summit and retreat which include Australia and New Zealand later in the week.
Climate change is expected to dominate talks in the lead-up to the UN's major climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year.
"Let us make our message in Paris a message we can be proud to take back to our people, one that we protect our environment and our cultural heritage," Mr Remengesau said in his opening address.
"Our countries may be perceived as small but we are in fact pioneers and trailblazers in restoring balance to our Earth."
Mr Remengesau praised marine conservation efforts and crackdowns on illegal fishing.
Small island states were actually large ocean states, he said.
Forum secretary-general Meg Taylor said the small island nations needed special attention as they grappled with the devastating impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
The leaders are also expected to discuss cervical cancer, alleged human rights issues within Indonesia's West Papua and communications technology.
Arriving at a Port Moresby hotel ahead of the meeting Nauru President Baron Waqa told NZ Newswire he was bitterly disappointed with New Zealand's decision to suspend aid to his country's legal system.
The NZ move was in response to concerns about a decline in the rule of law and democratic principles on the island.