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US, China, India blamed for climate talks impasse

Nic Bothma / EPA

Delegates attend the High Level Segment of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, Thursday.

Updated: 2:55 p.m. ET

DURBAN, South Africa -- Developing states most at risk from global warming rebelled against a proposed deal at U.N. climate talks Friday, forcing host South Africa to draw up new draft documents in a bid to prevent the talks from collapsing.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane suspended the talks in Durban after a coalition of island nations, developing states and the European Union complained the current draft lacked ambition, sources said.


"There was a strong appeal from developing countries, saying the commitments in the proposed texts were not enough, both under the Kyoto Protocol and for other countries," said Norway's Climate Change Minister Erik Solheim.

Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent told Reuters there was "serious negotiating to do" if the conference was to wrap up as planned Friday.

Updated: 12 p.m. ET

DURBAN, South Africa -- The United States, China and India could scuttle attempts to save the Kyoto climate treaty, Europe's top negotiator said Friday.

"Durban is holding its breath: Will China, India and the U.S. accept to be legally bound?" asked EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard as a Friday deadline neared.

Both China and the U.S. have said they would be amenable to the EU proposal to negotiate a post-2020 agreement, but each attached riders that appeared to hobble prospects for unanimous acceptance. India, which lags behind China in development even though its economy is expanding rapidly, was taking "a relatively tough stand here," Hedegaard said.

The United States, whose Congress is generally seen as hostile on the climate issue, is concerned about conceding any competitive business advantage to China. Beijing, too, is resisting the notion that it has become a developed country on par with the U.S. or Europe, saying it still has hundreds of millions of impoverished people.

Under Kyoto, rich countries are legally bound to reduce carbon emissions while developing countries take voluntary actions.

Updated: 5 a.m. ET

DURBAN, South Africa -- Rich and poor nations at climate change talks are lining up behind a European Union plan for achieving a global pact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, but delegates said time was running out to reach a deal before talks end on Friday.

Ministers made incremental progress overnight toward a deal that many envoys see as being a political agreement, with states promising to start talks on a new regime of binding cuts in the gases blamed for global warming and environmental devastation.

They say that anything less would mean the two-week-long, United Nations negotiations in the South African city of Durban were a disaster, Reuters reported.

"Time in Durban is now really short," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters after talks that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now joins "Up" live from the United Nation's Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa

"The success or failure of Durban hangs on a small number of countries who have not yet committed to the (EU) roadmap and the meaningful content it must have. We need to get them on board today. We do not have too many hours left," she said.

The slow pace of dealing with the problem is dispiriting delegates from small islands on the edge of survival, and from activists impatient with the familiar posturing of climate negotiations.

"Waiting is going to be a disaster for us," said Samuela Alivereti Saumatua, Fiji's environment minister, who said the Pacific island this month relocated its first coastal village because of climate-related flooding and unseasonable cyclones.

"We have cyclones now at any time of the year. We have flash floods in the coastal areas. Water supply is being salinated. Food security is going to be a problem. We are desperately looking at how we will deal with the situation," he told reporters.

'Got to decide'
The EU plan envisages a new deal reached by 2015, and put into effect by 2020, imposing binding cuts on the world's biggest emitters of the heat-trapping gases.

"We're reaching the point where a number of delegations have got to decide whether they want to get a treaty with real environmental integrity," Britain's climate envoy Chris Huhne told reporters.

"It's increasingly clear that the EU is speaking for the vast majority of participants," Huhne said.

Two major issues for the negotiators from nearly 200 countries are finding a way of updating the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon cuts, and raising funding needed to help poor countries tackle climate change.

Key to any greenhouse gas deal will be China, the United States, India and Brazil -- the world's largest emitters which are not bound by the cuts regime in the Kyoto Protocol.

Three U.N. reports released in the last month show time is running out to achieve change. They show a warming planet will amplify droughts and floods, increase crop failures and raise sea levels to the point where several island states are threatened with extinction.

South African President Jacob Zuma has said Durban will be a failure if a Green Climate Fund, designed to help poor nations tackle global warming and nudge them toward a new global effort to fight climate change, is not put into force.

A group of 48 of the least developed countries has said it backs the European plan for a firm timetable, joining 43 small island states. Japan has said it shares "common ground" with Europe while Canada and several other developed countries have shown their support.

US student thrown out
The EU, Japan and others have said that any deal that does not include all major players would not nearly be enough to head off a global problem.

The United States has said it will make its emissions cuts binding under an international agreement only if China and other developing countries that are big polluters back their commitments with equal legal force.

If the discussions hold to form, envoys will extend discussions and release their decisions on Saturday.

An American college student was ejected from the conference Thursday after disrupting a speech by U.S. delegate Todd Stern. Police escorted the student, Abigail Borah, 21, from the cavernous plenary of the conference as delegates applauded her removal.

Before she was seized, Borah began reading a speech accusing the U.S. of stonewalling an agreement, but Stern denied that.

The world's glaciers are shrinking at alarming rates. Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and Douglas Hardy of UMass-Amherst discuss glaciers and how they melt, and pay special attention to Africa's tallest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro. NBC's Anne Thompson reports for "Changing Planet," produced by NBC Learn in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

"I've heard this from everywhere from ministers to press reports to the very sincere and passionate young woman who was in the hall when I was giving my remarks. I just wanted to be on the record as saying that, that's just a mistake. It is not true," he told reporters later.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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