The Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) will bring together officials from the region's most vulnerable states as well as from the larger economies of Brazil, China and Australia.
They'll spend the week assessing the impact climate change is having on the Pacific.
Shortly before officially opening the conference, Kiribati President's Anote Tong, spoke to Geraldine Coutts.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Anote Tong, Kiribati President.
COUTTS: Now Mr Tong, Kiribati will be on show for the delegates who are there. What will you say to them about Kiribati's plight in particular?
TONG: Well I think we continue to make the statement in different fora, but I think this will be the first opportunity for the large countries to actually see first hand what it is we have to contend with. To actually experience the high tides and the very marginal rise in elevation and land when the tide is coming in at the very highest level. And so this is an experience which not many people truly understand, and hopefully this will be an opportunity for, particularly the countries which are making the largest contributions to greenhouse gas emissions to truly appreciate what it is we are talking about.
COUTTS: Well seeing is believing, will you actually show the delegates what you're talking about while they're there?
TONG: Well they will actually be seeing it because the venue of the conference will be a small island in the middle of the lagoon. So they will have the sea all around them. Unfortunately the very high tides have passed away during the full moon, but the tides will still be high enough for them to appreciate the very marginal difference between the high tide and the land elevation.
COUTTS: Well greenhouse gas emissions are of importance, particularly to Kiribati, Tuvalu and many of the Pacific Island nations indeed. Are you going to be raising that as an issue, and what will you be saying about it, and will you be placing demands and expectations on the delegates who will be listening to you?
TONG: Well I think we've already made those statements, and what we want them to say is that surely there must be a way to resolve the issues. I think there are common grounds, and we want to dwell on those common grounds rather than to continue to focus on our differences. I think it's trying to forge a way forward, and hopefully to get things going prior to and at Mexico.
COUTTS: Now are there things that you need to reach agreement on at your meeting in Kiribati before Cancun in Mexico?
TONG: Yeah hopefully we will come away with some declarations which we can agree, both the low-lying countries, the vulnerable, and the countries which have a different agenda. I think we have to put our differences on the table, hopefully this will be an opportunity to do that, acknowledge our differences and find a way forward around those differences.
COUTTS: What are some of those differences?
TONG: Well we continue to argue, vulnerable countries, about our survival. The developing countries, the large developed countries continue to argue about economic growth, the poverty and what have you. I think we must believe that there are common grounds, we must believe that there is a way forward.
COUTTS: In a more practical sense in Kiribati people are having to move further and further inland because of the inundation of water on their produce gardens. How much further inland can they keep going before there's nowhere else for them to go?
TONG: Well that's precisely the point, there is no inland for us. But I think this is also something that we want to demonstrate, that in some parts of the island you throw a stone and you actually hit the other side of the island. So there is no inland. And these are the issues and these are things that we want people to be able to appreciate.
COUTTS: Do you think there now is a need for more talk about environmental refugees, such as people on Kiribati, because where you'll have to move is what you're saying eventually?
TONG: Well I always make the point that I reject the notion of environmental refugees. I think what we want to be able to be prepared for is all possible eventualities, one of which may be the need to relocate our people. And in order to relocate we must begin to address these issues now, and part of the process of addressing them is referring for that process. And so it requires a very well planned and a long-term process. If we know it's going to happen, we have the time to plan it, then there is no reason why we should not begin planning it now.