Climate change negotiators from 177 countries and organizations ended talks in China Saturday with partial progress, but with rich and poor countries still divided over responsibilities for emissions cuts.
"This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun. Governments addressed what is do-able in Cancun, and what may have to be left to later," Christiana Figueres, U.N. climate chief, said at a press conference after the meeting.
After three rounds of talks this year, delegates gathered in north China's Tianjin to pave the way for "concrete outcomes" at the year-end Cancun summit in Mexico.
National negotiators aimed to finally reach a binding treaty, which is key to limiting the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Governments had discussed each element of a package of decisions, including a long-term shared vision, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key operational elements of climate finance and capacity building, along with the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
Governments needed to finalize these decisions in Cancun, Figueres said.
However, in the past week, negotiators had not come to an agreement on how to allocate the 30-billion-U.S.-dollar "fast start fund" to support developing countries, but a final result would come at Cancun, she said.
Negotiators had come much closer to working out a new fund of long-term finance to cope with climate changes and they would discuss the details in Cancun, she said.
Less progress had been made in discussions of the continuation of Kyoto Protocol, but she expressed confidence that the issue would make progress at Cancun.
Su Wei, China's chief climate change negotiator, told Xinhua Saturday, "Generally speaking, the outcome of the Tianjin meeting met with our original expectations."
The week-long talks had made progress to close the differences and improve common understanding among parties.
"Everybody has been working hard for a balanced outcome at the meeting," he said.
The European Union and the United States struck a less promising tone as they saw "limited progress" at the Tianjin meeting, but hopes and trust were still there for the Cancun meeting.
Jurgen Lefevere, a climate advisor at the Climate Action Directorate-General of the European Commission, said there were mixed sentiments over issues like transparency, and the outcome was very patchy.
Discussions on some essential areas were far from sufficient, he said.
"Although the gap remains wide, we still have good hope for Cancun," EU climate change official Peter Wittoeck said at the press conference.
In response to talk of parties losing trust amid the gridlock, Wittoeck said trust and hope were still there to bring the required outcome at Cancun.
"Our confidence is real. We have differences on some substances, but would not say trust had disappeared. It is like the progress was not as what we expected," he said.
As the world's two major economies and emitters, China and the United States are under close scrutiny in their emissions cutting moves, but tensions between them over who should act first and do more showed no sign of abating in Tianjin.
China wants a substantial rise in emissions cuts targets by developed countries, and reaffirmed a division of obligations between the rich and poor nations.
However, developed countries, led by the United States, demand all major emitters are included in a binding treaty.
Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, said Friday that China had ignored its commitment made in the Copenhagen Accord while only committing itself to voluntary efforts.
Chinese officials had acted like the agreement "never happened," he said in a speech at the University of Michigan.
In response to Stern's comment, Su Wei said China and United States had different interpretations of the Copenhagen Accord.
The United States regarded the Copenhagen Accord as a denial of the Kyoto Protocol, which was unacceptable for developing nations.
"The Copenhagen accord reaffirms the principals of the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC and the Bali Road Map. We have always been in support of turning agreements reached by leaders at Copenhagen into the negotiation text we are discussing," he said.
Su said China's support for the Copenhagen accord was "consistent" and "staunch."
He said some rich countries were trying to create an impression that developing countries were blocking the negotiations.
"The underlying purpose of doing so is to avoid setting emissions cuts targets after 2012, a key issue of the ongoing talks," Su said, which was why some wealthy countries wanted a substantial amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.
"That is a retreat from the past meeting. Any moves that aim to overthrow the Kyoto Protocol should be denounced," he said.
Su said developed countries and developing nations should act at the same time.
"Although a binding target for developed nations is critical to fight climate change, that is not all. China will always do its part in emissions cuts for sustainable development," Su said.
Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said at the press conference, "The disagreements between United States and China remain. We have not yet found a path to success.
"It appears so far the interests of the two countries do not coincide with respect to the mitigation actions or transparency as the agreements we understood in Copenhagen," he said.
Despite the tensions, both sides called for global efforts to address the global warning.
"There is no solution to the environmental problems unless we both find solutions together," Pershing said.
"But the bilateral relationship is only a part of it. We need to work in partnership in a multilateral connection as well," he said.
Commenting on China's emissions cuts efforts, Pershing said he was very impressed with what China had done.
"China has enormous investment, and enormous commitment to looking at new infrastructure and renewable energy programs," he said.
At the end last year, China announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
The government has been stepping up closures of outdated production capacity, which has been blamed for pollution and hindering the upgrading of industries.
China has shut down small thermal power plants with a total capacity of 60 million kilowatts over the past five years, which is more than the total installed power generation capacity of the whole United Kingdom.