As more than 130 world leaders arrive in Copenhagen for the final two days of the UN climate conference - US President Barack Obama is due to arrive tomorrow (18 December) - negotiators have warned that the risk of failure has never been higher.
"The final negotiations will be tense and strenuous," said Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who is chairing the conference after Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard resigned from the role to move the negotiations up a notch.
'New world order'
Jo Leinen, who leads the European Parliament's delegation in Copenhagen, told EurActiv that the conference has been rigged with mistrust between rich and poor nations over emissions reduction targets and aid to the developing world (EurActiv 16/12/09).
Leinen's interpretation of the current state of play is that developing countries were trying to use the conference as a way to force a new world order in which industrialised countries are no longer the dominant power.
"I think we are at the beginning of a new world order," the MEP said. But he warned that it would be "a pity to sacrifice the climate conference for unsolved global governance problems".
His alarm was echoed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said on Wednesday (16 December) that negotiators were set for an "uphill struggle" to bridge the gap in the negotiations. "If you don't get an agreement this week, people will doubt whether you can get an agreement at all," Brown told the BBC.
Tensions have tended to concentrate on emissions reduction targets for industrialised countries.
On Monday, the G77-China bloc, encompassing 130 developing and emerging nations, suspended the talks for a few hours in protest against the Danish host government, which they said was favouring the interests of developed countries.
The EU expects other developed nations to make firm commitments on emissions reductions targets in order to raise its own target of reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 to 30%.
But Jo Leinen, the European Parliament's negotiator, cautioned that this would be a last-minute decision which now seemed unlikely due to insufficient commitments from other parties.
The Group of 77 and China yesterday warned against attempts to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 rich nations to limit carbon emissions.
The United States in particular has never ratified Kyoto due to concerns over the economy.
But developing countries want rich nations to be held to their Kyoto obligations, and sign up to a second round of tougher commitments from 2013.
"We have seen that developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol are seeking to dismantle the protocol itself," said NafieAli Nafie, head of the Sudanese delegation, who spoke on behalf of the G77 and China at the high-level segment of the conference.
Industrialised countries are in favour of a "single undertaking" which is much weaker than the protocol and would undermine and reinterpret the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, Nafie said.
He said developed countries intended to undermine the principles of "equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" by throwing away the Kyoto Protocol.
Negotiations to extend the Kyoto pact have stalled, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh warned on Wednesday. He said many developed countries were "vehemently opposing" the protocol and some of them wanted a single new accord obliging all nations to fight global warming. "The sense we get is that [the] Kyoto [Protocol] is in intensive care if not dead," Ramesh told reporters.
But developing countries want to maintain Kyoto as an essential part of the negotiations. "The G77 wishes to stress the need to maintain the two-track outcome of which the Kyoto Protocol is an essential instrument," Nafie said.
The two-track negotiation mechanism was established in the Bali Action Plan, adopted two years ago. According to the action plan, developed countries should come up with emissions reduction targets for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol after the first period expires in 2012, and discuss how to help developing countries with their mitigation and adaptation efforts under the UNFCCC.