As the last lap of the much-touted Copenhagen climate change summit began in the Danish capital Tuesday evening, not many observers held out hopes of any meaningful deal.
With divisions running deep between the developed and developing nations, all that is hoped for now is more platitudes and rhetoric.
China has accused developed countries of backtracking on what it says are their obligations to fight climate change and has warned that the UN climate talks in Copenhagen have entered a critical stage.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said there had been "some regression" on the part of developed countries, who had "put forward a plethora" of demands on developing countries.
Beijing's view is that the US and other richer nations have a historical responsibility to cut emissions, and any climate deal should take into account a country's development level.
Talks were suspended Monday by developing nations worried about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, currently the only legally binding treaty on climate change.
Many industrialized countries want to merge the Protocol and the outcome of the Copenhagen summit into a single agreement. But developing countries, the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, want to extend the Kyoto Protocol past 2012, when its first commitment period ends. And so the tussle continues.
After discussions with the Danes and UN climate convention officials, the informal talks were split as the G77-China bloc had demanded.
One group, chaired by Germany and Indonesia, is examining further emission cuts by developed nations under the Kyoto Protocol.
Another, chaired by the UK and Ghana, is looking at long-term financing to help poorer countries develop along "green" lines and protect themselves against impacts of climate change.
Arriving in Copenhagen for the high-level segment of the United Nations climate change talks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exhorted nations to "seal the deal" on an ambitious new agreement to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, warning that the well-being of all of the world's people is at stake. World leaders "face a defining moment in history," he told conference delegates.
More than 130 heads of state and government have confirmed their participation at the last three days of the conference, "clear proof that climate change has risen to the top of the global agenda," the secretary-general said. But he acknowledged that all leaders coming to Copenhagen face domestic pressures that make it more difficult to reduce emissions.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraged delegates to fight climate change on "subnational" as well as regional, national and international levels.
"Climate change is a global problem that demands global solutions, but while national governments have been fighting over emission targets, subnational governments like California have been adopting their own targets, laws and policies," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "And the truth is, the world's national governments cannot make the progress that is needed on global climate change alone, they need the help of cities, states, provinces and regions in enacting real climate solutions."
But UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was more forthright. It may not be possible to get a new deal, he admitted.
Arriving at summit, Mr Brown said he was determined to play his part in "bringing the world together."
However, he said "a number of problems" remained as talks continued in a bid to break the deadlock over emission cuts and financial aid for poorer countries.
The UK is backing Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi's proposals to assist African nations through predictable funding that will not detract from existing aid priorities, and a global tax to raise funds.