As prospects of a political pact brighten at the Copenhagen climate change meet with the US, India and China setting emission reduction targets, the 12-day jamboree opens in Copenhagen on Monday to chalk out a new plan to tackle global warming and its impact beyond 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deciding to join leaders of some 100 countries including the US and China at the crucial climate talks, signs of a likely pact are emerging but concerns remain over the contentious Danish proposal that sets 2025 as deadline for all nations to cap their emission.
Analysts say the draft proposal prepared by the host nation removes the distinction between the developed and the developing countries and would be disastrous for India and other developing countries.
Developing countries have maintained that given the fact that emissions from industrialising developed nations over the last century have been the primary cause of global warming, they should shoulder greater responsibility for carbon cuts.
India joined the US and China in announcing voluntary emission intensity cuts this week with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh declaring a 20-25 per cent target of reducing India's carbon emission intensity by 2025.
Encouraged by the voluntary declarations by China and India, US President Barack Obama has rescheduled his visit to Copenhagen to the crunch December 18 finale.
India said it would be "flexible" at the climate meet while ensuring that its national interests are not affected.
While the US has made a prosposal to cut its carbon emissions by 17 per cent, China has announced a target of carbon emission intensity reduction of 40-45 per cent.
Carbon intensity is the volume of emission proportionate to the GDP. By reducing the intensity, India and China intend to maintain high GDP growth while ensuring lesser emission.
China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while India is the fifth largest. The two are the only developing countries in the list of top five emitters.
Under intense pressure to arrive at a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, over 100 leaders are set to attend the finale on December 18, with sharp divisions persisting between the developed and the developing nations.
Back home in India, political parties and activists have warned the government against yielding to pressure in Copenhagen and stick to India's position that any climate pact takes the concept of historical responsibility into consideration.
Environmentalists have pointed out that while the White House has lauded India's and China's new emissions intensity targets, it has pledged to cut its emissions to just 3 per cent below 1990 levels.
In the run up to the climate summit, environmental groups and NGOs around the world have built up pressure on world leaders to arrive at a deal that includes legally-binding carbon emission reductions.
Thousands of people marched in London on Saturday pressing for an agreement in Copenhagen.
In a bid to highlight the dangers of climate change to their low-lying nation, the cabinet of Maldives held an under-water meeting in October. The Nepalese cabinet, meanwhile, held a meeting at the base of Mount Everest to highlight the threat to Himalayan glaciers.
Besides asking the developed nations to shoulder greater responsibility, the developing countries have also sought transfer of technology in the clean energy sector to make processes more environment friendly.
As the first commitment period for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, would expire in 2012, the international community would endeavour to map out a plan for binding emissions cuts for the second commitment period from 2012 to 2020 at the upcoming summit.
The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in Kyoto in 1997, sets legally binding targets for developed countries to reduce emissions -- a major feature of the pact. These amount to cuts of an average 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.
Prior to the Kyoto Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but no mandatory limits on emissions were set.
The two accords advocate "common but differentiated responsibilities" and stipulate that developed countries should provide funds and technology to developing countries to help them tackle climate change.