A New Zealand academic looking at the language used to discuss climate change in the Pacific says it is giving the world's most powerful countries a way out of reducing their emissions.
Holly Mansfield of Victoria University presented some of her masters research at the Pacific History Association's biennial conference in Wellington last week.
She says terms such as "vulnerable" are used constantly in relation to countries such as Kiribati, which is being severely affected by the impacts of climate change but does comparatively little to exacerbate the problem.
Ms Mansfield says there is a long history of describing Pacific Island countries in such terms and they are not exclusive to the climate change debate.
"If we continually frame the Pacific as vulnerable it lets the onus of responsibility fall on the shoulders of the very people who are vulnerable. When you consider the climate change discussions, they're the last people who should be feeling the responsibility of it."