COPENHAGEN — The success of the U.N. climate conference hung in the balance Tuesday as China and the United States deadlocked over whether Beijing will allow the world to check its books and verify promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Princes, presidents and premiers crowded into a vast hall for the formal opening of the largest summit ever held on climate change, but attention was on the leaders of the world's two largest polluters — President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao — who plan to arrive for the final days of talks on a framework to control heat-trapping gases.
Negotiators who have been working for 10 days floated new draft documents on lesser issues. But they left open the vexing questions of emissions targets for industrial countries, billions of dollars a year in funding for poor countries to contend with global warming, and verifying the actions of emerging powers like China to ensure they keep their promises.
"In these very hours, we are balancing between success and failure," said conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark. Success is possible, she said, "but I must also warn you: We can fail — probably without anyone really wanting it so, but because we spent too much time on posturing, on repeating positions, on formalities."
The rest of the 115 leaders were expected to arrive before Friday's summit finale to sign a political outline of a global warming treaty that would set limits on carbon dioxide pollution by the United States, China, India as well as extending emissions targets for the 37 countries regulated under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.