Climate talks involving some 20,000 government officials and global warming activists opened today in South Africa.
The talks in Durban are seen as the last chance to extend the limits of greenhouse gas emissions spelled out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The current round of targets is due to end in 2012.
China is unwilling to make any commitments until Washington does, while Russia, Japan, and Canada say they will not sign up to a second commitment period unless the biggest emitters do, too.
Emerging countries insist Kyoto must be extended and that rich nations should take on tougher targets.
Expectations ahead of the talks are not high, despite experts' pleas for urgent action.
According to fresh data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, average global temperatures could rise by 3 to 6 degrees by the end of the century if governments fail to contain greenhouse gas emissions, bringing unprecedented destruction as glaciers melt and sea levels rise.
The talks in the South African coastal city are scheduled to run until December 9.
compiled from agency reports