The Kyoto Protocol which binds nearly 40 rich nations to limit carbon emissions is in "intensive care" and global negotiations to extend the pact have stalled, India's environment minister said on Wednesday.
More than 190 countries are meeting in Copenhagen to agree the outlines of a new global deal to combat climate change, hoping to seal a full treaty next year to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
Developing countries want rich nations to be held to their Kyoto obligations, and sign up to a second round of tougher commitments from 2013.
But Jairam Ramesh 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 Kyoto is in intensive care if not dead," Ramesh told reporters.
The protocol obliges nearly 40 industrialised nations to limit emissions by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. It does not impose curbs on poorer nations.
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 carbon emitter, never ratified Kyoto. They fear signing up for a binding new Kyoto while Washington slips away with a less strict regime.
Ramesh said Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard, host of the Dec 7-18 UN talks, had told him that the conference was unlikely to produce a second commitment period for Kyoto Protocol.
"By trying to shake Kyoto, they (rich nations) are trying to shake one of the basic pillars on which the world had resolved to fight climate change," Ramesh said.
Developing economies such as India have virtually ruled out a single legal undertaking, saying the main mandate of global talks on climate change was to agree the extension of Kyoto.
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 rejecting Kyoto was not acceptable to developing countries and that it would be "very, very detrimental to a consensus approach".
"This would certainly create problems for long-term action goals," he said, adding talks on Kyoto could still be revived with a helping hand from the United States.
"Kyoto needs a number of oxygen cylinders. One of them is in the White House."