Such a move, they say, would prejudge the outcome of negotiations of a new post-Kyoto climate change treaty.

 

On the other side, the European Union and developing nations argue that rich nations should take the lead in fighting global warming.

 

The EU says the final text of the Bali meeting should include a non-binding goal for industrial economies to cut emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

 

The row has led environmentalists at the Bali talks to accuse the US of trying to sabotage the outcome of the summit.

 

As negotiations dragged through the night on Thursday, the US delegation put forward a proposed text that stressed voluntary goals rather Kyoto-style mandatory caps on emissions.

 

'Taking no action'

 

"At the 11th hour the US has submitted a proposal that is the equivalent of taking no action at all against climate change," James Leape, director general of WWF International, told AFP.

 

"This proposal would gut the international effort towards halting climate change and put the future of our planet at risk."

 

"My own country - the United States - is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali"

Al Gore,
Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US vice-president

On Thursday, Al Gore, the former US vice-president, said his country was blocking progress on climate change.

 

"I am going to speak an inconvenient truth - my own country - the United States - is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," he told delegates.

 

Gore, who was a joint winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, said he hoped for a change of heart on the part of some countries, "including and most importantly my own".

 

Urging delegates to move forward and sidestep the current US administration, he said that with US presidential elections in less than a year, a successor to the current president was likely to take a different stance on climate change.

 

"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it isn't right now. You must anticipate that," he said.

 

The objective of the Bali talks is not to draw up a new climate change treaty, but to set the framework for two years of negotiations that will culminate in such a deal.

 

The new treaty would take effect after 2012, when the current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol expire.

 

While there is still four years to go, the UN says that is only a short amount of time to negotiate a workable global treaty and have it ratified by governments.

 

The Kyoto pact required 36 industrialised nations to meet specific targets capping their emissions of greenhouse gases.

 

However, the world's two biggest emitters, the United States and China – who together account for about half of all emissions - lie outside the Kyoto curbs.

Source: Agencies