THE latest round of international climate change negotiations has ended in a familiar stalemate, with the wealthiest nations refusing to meet demands to introduce tougher greenhouse targets.
Despite high expectations, the first United Nations climate meeting attended by the Obama Administration fizzled out without a clear plan for reaching a post-Kyoto climate deal, due to be signed in December in Copenhagen.
Climate Institute policy director Erwin Jackson, a 20-year observer of climate talks, said most countries were "sleep-walking" towards the year-end deadline. "There is no sense of momentum, no sense of building trust and no sense within the negotiations about how we are going to resolve the outstanding issues," he said after the end of the 10-day talks in Germany.
The gathering of 2600 officials from 175 countries for the first major climate talks for 2009 was seen as critical for two reasons: it was to lay the groundwork for a deal in Copenhagen and as an insight into the intentions of new US President Barack Obama.
While US climate envoy Todd Stern did not announce firm proposals, he did raise expectations by saying the US knew it needed to do more than Mr Obama's pre-election promise to return emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 for a strong deal to be secured.
Several major developed nations, including Japan, are yet to reveal how far they are prepared to cut their greenhouse emissions.
Australia announced its targets in December — a cut of 5 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 — but is yet to submit them to the UN. Australia's chief climate diplomat, Howard Bamsey, said the targets would be tabled at the next meeting in June.
Observers said it was increasingly clear leadership would need to come from a meeting of 17 major economies convened by Mr Obama for April and July.