But the biggest stumbling block facing delegates is whether the text should include targets for rich countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
On Monday the US, which remains the only industrialised country to refuse to ratify the Kyoto pact, insisted that a proposed “road map” for future global warming talks should not include targets for cuts.
Harlan Watson, the US negotiator in Bali, said there were “many uncertainties” over the numbers and accepting them now would only limit the parameter of future discussions.
Mohamed Hassan, Somalia
“To start with a predetermined answer, we don’t think is an appropriate thing to do.”
But the US stand has been criticised by environmentalists who say it stands in the way of a meaningful deal.
“This is not the direction we need to be going in. The stakes are too high for this kind of political games,” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the Associated Press.
On Monday in the US a congressional committee report accused the White House of systematically manipulating climate science for years to play down the dangers of global warming.
The report said that the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) exerted “unusual control” over what federal scientists could say publicly about climate change, and had suppressed scientific views that conflicted with administration policy.
The UN’s top climate change negotiator, Yvo de Boer, has said that cutting emissions by up to 40 per cent is crucial for reining in rising temperatures.
Providing targets, he told delegates on Monday, would also help to win over investors who could provide many of the high-tech solutions needed to ward off catastrophe.
A proposed text for the conference’s final document notes that reductions of 25 percent to 40 per cent in richer nations’ emissions would be required by 2020 in order to head off the worst effects of climate change, with even deeper cuts later.
The statement would be nonbinding, but de Boer said it was “important to give a clear signal that that’s where industrialised countries intend to go.”
The European Union, which pushed for this mention of potential targets, has itself committed to reductions of 20-30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Under the Kyoto pact agreed exactly 10 years ago, 36 industrial nations were required to reduce carbon dioxide and other industrial, transportation and agricultural gas emissions by an average five per cent below 1990 levels in the next five years.
But the US rejected the pact, with George Bush, the US president, contending the emissions cuts would harm the US economy and should have been imposed on China, India and other fast-growing developing economies.
Negotiators in Bali have said that in order for the successor to Kyoto to have any chance of success, the US must be included in any agreement.
Efforts to push forward the proposed “roadmap” of tackling climate change are set to ramp up a gear from Tuesday with the arrival of Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, at the Bali talks.
Also expected to attend is Australia‘s new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who made signing the Kyoto pact his first act after taking office last week.