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Global talks on climate change still lack clarity and could even break down over "serious" outstanding issues with only three days to go before the world has to agree an outcome, India's environment minister said.
The talks are stuck on the question of who should cut emission of planet-warming gases, by how much and who should pay. With time running out, chances of settling a legally binding global deal are virtually gone and but there is still hope that a substantive political pact can be agreed instead.
"There is confusion and lack of clarity at this stage," Jairam Ramesh said on the sidelines of the December 7-18 talks, attended by more than 190 countries to agree the outlines of a new global deal to combat climate change.
"There could be breakdown on many issues. We still don't have great clarity on how the next few days are going to evolve," Ramesh told Reuters in an interview.
Developing nations are under pressure to be accountable over steps they take to fight climate change, through what the United Nations refers to as "measurable, reportable and verifiable" MRV) actions.
Ramesh said there was no agreement on this: "The MRV issue is a very serious divider."
India was also against leaving a high-level heads of state meeting on Friday to negotiate the most difficult issues, saying the Danish hosts of the UN conference had promised that no new negotiating text would be "sprung on us".
"Whatever texts have to be negotiated and drafted should be ready by the 16th or 17th (of December) and the heads of state cannot be expected to draft or negotiate," Ramesh said.
He said progress had also been slow on negotiations to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which binds about 40 industrialised nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Talks on a pact to succeed Kyoto have been sluggish since they started two years ago, largely because rich nations want to merge Kyoto into a single new accord obliging all nations to fight global warming.
Industrialised nations want a single track largely because the United States, the world's second biggest emitter, never ratified Kyoto. They fear signing up for a binding new Kyoto while Washington slips away with a less strict regime.
Ramesh virtually ruled out a single legal undertaking, saying the main mandate of global talks on climate change was to agree the extension of the Kyoto Protocol.
"We believe that it is only after (Kyoto's) second commitment period commitments are in place fully for all parties (the 40 industrialised countries plus the United States) can we even begin to talk of a single legal undertaking," he said.
Negotiators have not been able to agree yet on whether to extend Kyoto and add extra national commitments under a separate pact, or end Kyoto and agree one new treaty which specifies actions by most countries.
Ramesh said the conference was likely to produce two separate texts -- an agreed draft on the Kyoto Protocol and another on climate actions by most countries -- in the hope of sealing a full treaty next year to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.