Frustration builds at COP 17
Richard Ingham and Marlowe Hood
Durban - After 12 days of wrangling, UN climate talks went into extra time on Friday with China, the US and India facing pressure to back a European bid for a new worldwide pact on greenhouse gases.
But with conference chair South Africa taking a cautious, consensus-building approach, the outcome remained extremely unpredictable.
A core group of ministers from about two dozen countries, representative of rich and poor countries alike, was expected to haggle into the night.
Assuming they found common ground, their compromise would be put to a plenary of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Saturday.
On the table is a European scheme claimed to be backed by nearly two-thirds of the world's nations.
They support a "roadmap" leading to an accord, to be negotiated by 2015 which for the first time would bind all nations to legal commitments to tackle greenhouse gases.
Rallying around the European proposal are the least developed countries, the African bloc, small island states and Brazil and South Africa, said European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.
Without naming names, Hedegaard said this left the United States, China and India to declare their hand. The US and China are the world's biggest emitters.
"The success or failure of Durban depends on the small number of countries who have not yet committed to the roadmap and the meaningful content that it of course must have," said Hedegaard.
The roadmap scheme aims at filling a void at a time when scientists are urging ever more radical action to curb carbon emissions driving the planet to worsening food, drought, rising seas and storms.
The goal is to bridge the gap between the end of 2012 - when the first round of legal-binding curbs commitments under the Kyoto Protocol expire - and 2020, the date for which countries have made voluntary pledges on carbon reductions.