The biggest climate change talks of the year begin next week, but New Zealand officials admit that the chance of an international agreement on emissions is bleaker than ever.
On Monday, delegates from more than 190 countries will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the latest attempt to set greenhouse gas emissions targets and prevent harmful global warming.
New Zealand officials admitted that an international treaty was highly unlikely this year, with one saying there was "less than a 1 per cent chance" of targets being set.
The only international binding contract on emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires next year. Developed countries have indicated a new treaty is unlikely until at least 2016.
Climate scientists say the failure to create a treaty could undermine the goal of limiting global warming to 2C.
Associate Professor Ralph Chapman of Victoria University, who took part in New Zealand's original Kyoto negotiations, said: "The world is running out of time rapidly, as each year sees countries investing in more high-emissions infrastructure such as coal power stations and motorways. These largely lock in a pattern of emissions that mean it is increasingly likely we will exceed ... the guardrail that no one wants to go beyond."
The climate talks come as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of mounting evidence that global warming was leading to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, and fiercer storms.
But a recent study, published in Nature, said an obsession with binding targets could do more harm than good. The author Elliot Diringer said Governments should admit that an international agreement may take some time, and instead focus on national policies such as Australia's carbon tax.
Oxfam New Zealand executive director Barry Coates said despite the constant political delays, a quiet revolution of green energy was taking place, particularly in China. But he felt the goal of less than 2C of warming would be difficult without political and economic will.
New Zealand's climate change negotiators will continue to seek changes to the way emissions are counted. If forestry was counted as a carbon sink, not a carbon emitter, then New Zealand's emission recordings would be much lower.
Since the controversial 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, the New Zealand Government has been allocating up to $30 million a year for carbon reduction projects in smaller countries.
But the Government is keen to limit its funding to its South Pacific neighbours, many of which are low-lying and vulnerable to sea level rises.
No climate change conference would be complete without controversy.
On the eve of the meeting, 5000 emails have been leaked which apparently showed senior British and American climate scientists bickering and trying to show their research in the best possible light.
* Representatives from 190 countries are meeting in Durban to work on a binding resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
* These gases are widely believed to be the main cause of global warming and have been linked to predictions of flooding, sea level rises, droughts and heatwaves.
* The only international agreement on emissions expires next year.
* An intergovernmental panel estimates emissions will need to be reduced by 25-40 per cent to avoid a 2C global warming increase.
* A global deal has been stifled by disagreements over responsibility between industrialised nations (US, UK, Japan, EU) and developing nations (Brazil, India, China).
* New Zealand set emissions targets at Copenhagen in 2009 for 2020, but would only commit to them if it achieved rule changes in calculating emissions.