Prospects for a strong UN climate change deal grew more remote on Thursday at the climax of two years of talks, with developed and developing nations deadlocked on sharing cuts in greenhouse gases.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and dozens of other leaders were arriving in the Danish capital to address the Dec. 7-18 conference, which is meant to sign a new pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions on Friday.
Ministers have struggled to craft a coherent text for the leaders to sign because they have so far failed to close a rift over how far the developing world should join industrialized countries in cutting carbon emissions.
A Danish proposal to break the talks into smaller groups to speed up progress foundered on opposition from poor countries, backed by top greenhouse gas emitter China, who feared their voices would not be heard. There was no progress overnight.
"We've got a serious situation. We squandered a full day," German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told Reuters.
A Danish official said Thursday that there is little hope for a comprehensive deal because negotiations between rich and poor countries are deadlocked. The official said the Danish hosts of have not given up hope but at the moment it looks as though they will not get the deal they hoped for. The official is not authorized to speak publicly about the talks and asked not to be named.
India's environment minister accused rich countries of planning a "propaganda campaign" to blame developing nations for any breakdown in negotiations. Developing economies are expected to add almost all future growth in carbon emissions.
"We are in the end game," said Jairam Ramesh. "It's only a matter of time before the blame game starts. Already some developed countries are accusing the G77 (developing nation group), Africa. This is completely, incomprehensively wrong."
China told participants it saw no possibility of achieving a detailed accord to tackle global warming, an official from another nation involved in the talks said early on Thursday.
The official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the Chinese had instead suggested issuing "a short political declaration of some sort."
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters China was committed to the negotiations. "China hopes the Copenhagen meeting is successful, and has always taken a constructive attitude," she said.
Some developed nations ministers complained that the talks could be strangled on issues of procedure.
"We have a very serious situation," Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told Reuters.
The Copenhagen summit is meant to reach a global climate deal, as a basis for agreement on a new treaty to succeed the existing Kyoto Protocol after 2012, to avoid dangerous climate change and drive a shift to a greener global economy less dependent on fossil fuels.
About 120 heads of state and government will join the talks on Thursday and Friday, with U.S. President Barack Obama planning to arrive on Friday morning.
Speakers are lined up to address the summit until the small hours of the morning, including political heavyweights such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In a speech to parliament in Berlin before flying to the conference for the final two days, Ms. Merkel said failure to reach a deal to fight climate change could do lasting damage.
"The news that we've been receiving is not good," she said. "At the moment there doesn't seem to be any reasonable negotiation process in sight but I am hoping that the presence of over 100 leaders can give the necessary impulse."
The German chancellor said the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the United States and other industrial nations had to be improved.
"I must say very honestly that the United States offer to cut (emissions) by 4 per cent compared to 1990 levels is not ambitious," Ms. Merkel said.
While the overall picture appears bleak, there has been some progress in areas critical to reaching a deal.
Africa dramatically scaled back its expectations for climate aid from rich nations on Wednesday, and Japan pledged about $11-billion in public funds to 2012 to help poor countries adapt to a warmer world and cut their emissions.
Substantial progress is stalled on sharing the cost of emissions cuts, and a disagreement over whether to craft one new climate treaty or extend the present Kyoto Protocol and add an extra pact involving more nations.
Kyoto binds the emissions of nearly 40 industrialized countries, but not the United States which never ratified the pact, and does not require action of developing nations.
Under a new deal, the United States wants international scrutiny of performance by developing nations against targets to slow growth in their emissions, something they have rejected.
With a file from The Associated Press