Kiribati believes Australia is struggling with its position on climate change, preventing the nation from going into bat for its Pacific neighbours at major climate talks in Paris.

President Anote Tong is among leaders of some of the world's most vulnerable islands calling for big polluting nations to stand up at the United Nations summit and ensure the threatened islands' survival.

As the richest country in the region, Australia faces Pacific calls to push for a strong deal that limits global warming to 1.5C.

But so far, Mr Tong hasn't seen evidence of that from the Australians.

Advertisement

"They've not been doing any batting at the moment for us.

"I think they're struggling with their own position at the moment, I think we should let them work that out."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, addressing the summit, defended Tony Abbott's emissions reduction targets but indicated flexibility to boost them. Mr Turnbull is well known for his strong commitment to climate action, but has so far stuck with Abbott's policies.

Australia and New Zealand refused to sign on to the 1.5C goal at this year's Pacific Islands Forum - a move Mr Tong labels "a difference of opinion". Most richer nations have committed to limiting global warming to 2C.

But it's understood Australia is working in Paris for the 1.5C goal or at least the vulnerability of Pacific's island nations to be referenced somewhere in the agreement.

The Pacific Islands also want compensation for loss and damage included in a Paris agreement.

- AAP