World leaders are racing against the clock in an attempt to forge a deal on climate change in Copenhagen that hinges on the resolving sharp differences between rich and poorer nations over emissions cuts and their monitoring.
All eyes at the UN summit are on China and the US, the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and the two countries which will do most to decide whether a new global framework can be agreed. Barack Obama, the US president, and Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, are due to join the talks this morning to try to hammer out an agreement.
Such a deal would, most likely, be converted into a treaty next year and be the first to bind all countries to take action on climate change.
The 1997 Kyoto protocol was never ratified by the US, and made no demands on developing countries, notably China.
The US resolved one of the final key issues yesterday by agreeing to a global goal on financial assistance from the rich world to developing countries, of $100bn by 2020.
But Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, made it clear that the price of the US signing a deal would be for China and other developing countries to agree that their emissions curbs should be internationally monitored. “If there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency [on emissions cuts], that's kind of a dealbreaker for us,” she said.
China said it was committed to transparency, but it remains unlikely that its plans to submit its emissions only to domestic monitoring would be enough.
He Yafei, the vice foreign minister, said China was prepared to make its actions open, and to engage in “dialogue and co-operation” over its reporting of its emissions reduction measures.
A deal at the summit could also be scuppered by smaller developing countries, which have been “obstructionist” according to some negotiators.