Hopes dimmed for progress at climate talks in China as negotiators moved into their final day on Saturday with little consensus.
Marred by an atmosphere of mistrust, negotiations have made little headway as China and the United States, the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, hardened their positions and traded recriminations, said Wendel Trio, international climate policy director for Greenpeace.
"What we've seen is that both opponents have kind of elaborated their opposition further, rather than trying to come together," he said.
Delegates from more than 150 nations have been negotiating in China's northeastern city of Tianjin for the past week, working to lay the groundwork for a major climate meeting in Mexico in December.
The U.N.-sponsored talks aim to secure a binding deal to curb greenhouse gases that cause global warming, but countries disagree on the pace of transforming their electricity and transportation infrastructures and who should pay for developing countries' investments into the expensive cleaner-burning technology. Since a global treaty is largely out of reach for this year, the focus had turned to finding areas of agreement on essential components, including financing, technology transfer and deforestation.
Delegates said some progress has been made on establishing a climate fund to help poor nations, but expressed frustration at the overall gridlock during talks. Expectations had not been high coming into the negotiations, but disagreements have only sharpened over how share the burden for deep emissions cuts, and how the cuts could be verified.
"We have not done very well in the past two days. The world is watching. We are making history by being indecisive," said Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, chairman of the Least Developed Countries group.
Last year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen disappointed many environmentalists and political leaders when it failed to produce a legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases.
Scientists have warned that global warming could lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms. Even a 3.6-degree-Fahrenheit (2-degree-Celsius) temperature rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050, according to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists.