Majuro - Pacific leaders signed a declaration on Thursday committing themselves to urgent action on climate change and pleading with the rest of the world to follow their lead on an issue that threatens their existence.
Members of the 15-nation Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) finalised the so-called Majuro Declaration, named after the Marshall Islands' capital where they gathered this week, saying it should be a "game changer" in stalled efforts to address global warming.
The declaration contains specific pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adopting renewable energy from each of the PIF nations, some of which are barely a metre above sea level and face being swamped by rising waters.
Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said the declaration was only the beginning, adding "the real work begins now" to persuade the rest of the world to also take concrete action on the issue.
"We want our Majuro Declaration for climate leadership to be a game changer in the global fight against climate change," he said.
"Forged on the frontlines of climate change's devastating impacts, we hope it gives new impetus and accelerates the transition to the low-carbon economy."
He said the goal was to create the political will for the world to adopt legally-binding climate change targets by 2015.
The mission begins on Friday when the PIF leaders meet with representatives of 13 countries attending the summit as dialogue partners, including major polluters such as China and the United States, and attempt to sign them up to the declaration.
The PIF will then present it to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York to bolster his efforts to forge an ambitious new climate agreement.
European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who is in Majuro for the meeting, said this week that the Pacific nations were "setting a moral example" for the world.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr, whose country was chosen to host next year's PIF summit, said the Pacific leaders wanted to win the rest of the world over to their cause by setting an example, rather than trying to badger them into action.
"In the true spirit of Pacific culture, we don't use harsh words or demands," he said. "But the issue is about our very survival and sustainability as a people."
The leaders also endorsed a UN Special Rapporteur's report on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands that calls on the United States government to pay over $2bn in awards for nuclear-affected islanders.
The United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshalls from 1946 to 1958.
The PIF leaders said the United States and the UN "have ongoing obligations to encourage a final and just resolution for Marshallese".