Negotiators from nearly two hundred countries were still arguing early today over the possibility of a new climate deal forcing all nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
On one side of the argument at the UN Climate Conference in Durban were the member states of the European Union and a large number of developing countries, in a 120-strong bloc calling for a tough new pact to tackle global warming.
On the other side were the three biggest greenhouse gas emitters, China, the US and India, still resisting after two weeks of talks the idea of any agreement that would bind them legally to cut their soaring CO2 emissions by a definite date.
Between them the "Big 3" CO2 emitters account for nearly half the world's greenhouse gases yet none is taking action to cut emissions, and they must be included in any global warming deal for it to be environmentally credible.
The EU is proposing a deal "road-map", the key points of which are the timetable – it should be signed by 2015 and come into force by 2020 – and the condition that all major economies will take on legally binding emissions cuts.
The text being negotiated included the timetable, but in place of "legally binding" contained the phrase "a legal framework." The differenced may seem small but as one negotiator said, it contains "a lot of wriggle room", and may be something that EU countries, including the UK whose team is being led by the Energy and Environment Secretary, Chris Huhne, find they cannot accept. A deal is not being ruled out but it was impossible to call late last night.Reuse content