DURBAN, South Africa — Negotiators from Europe, tiny islands threatened by rising oceans and the world's poorest countries sought to keep alive the only treaty governing global warming and move to the next stage, struggling against an unlikely alliance of the United States, China and India.
Bleary-eyed delegates worked through the night and all day Friday, and the two-week U.N. conference stretched past the hour it was supposed to end, with the negotiators looking ahead to a second and final night of meetings expected to last until dawn today.
Delegates from the 194-party conference are trying to map out the pathway toward limiting global emissions of greenhouse gases for the rest of this decade, and then how to continue beyond 2020.
Scientists say that unless those emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide from power generation and industry — level out and reverse within a few years, Earth will be set on a possibly irreversible path of rising temperatures that lead to ever greater climate catastrophes.
The European Union said after a negotiating session of 26 key ministers that lasted beyond 4 a.m. Friday that support was growing for its plan to negotiate a new accord for a post-2020 world.
But the optimism faded as the day wore on and the three holdouts held firm.
More than 120 climate-vulnerable countries signed on to the EU vision calling for all countries to be held accountable for their carbon emissions in the future, not just the industrial countries. The United States, China and India, all for slightly different reasons, refused.
European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she was encouraged by progress overnight but warned that if the three largest polluters stand fast, "I don't think that there will be a deal in Durban."
"It's a strange world when the U.S. is aligning with China and India to block action on global warming," said Jake Schmidt of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.
A noisy demonstration by dozens of chanting, singing and horn-blowing protesters — all activists accredited to attend the conference — tried to disrupt a plenary meeting but were blocked by U.N. guards.