Five Pacific island nations are demanding a global moratorium on new coal mines as a way to halt global climate change.

The leaders from the Kiribati, Cook Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands have called for a limit to global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius and that countries keep to the polluter pays principle, where litigation is possible against pollution problems created in one country and affecting another.

The five nations’ call follows a letter the president of the Republic of Kiribati, Anote Tong, sent to world leaders calling for a halt to new coal mine development which he described as “an essential initial step on our collective global action against climate change” and necessary for countries like Kiribati which face “a very uncertain future” because of global warming.

Experts say many Pacific Island nations are threatened by changing weather patterns and rising sea levels, direct effects of global warming.

Tong’s letter and the five nation declaration are expected to be a contentious issue at this weeks broader 16-nation Pacific Island Forum leaders summit and retreat, considering that last month Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in announcing Australia’s new climate targets said his government’s policies were “the only way to protect the coal industry”.

Abbott has also been quoted as saying “coal is good for humanity” and for criticizing the reversal of an environmental impact approval for Australia’s biggest coal mine –Queensland’s Carmichael mine.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the government was continually working towards preventing climate change.

“As part of our commitment to tackling climate change, we will be pursuing a 26-28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 from 2005 levels,” he said.

“Our target is strong and credible – one which not only reflects our national circumstances, but one which will see Australia make a major contribution to addressing climate change globally.”

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