Campaigners tonight urged countries to name and shame the US for its “blatant attempts to derail” the negotiations for an international deal on climate change.
Christian Aid claimed the time for softly-softly democracy was coming to an end and urged Britain to take the lead in ensuring the US did not shirk its responsibility on the issue.
Ministers from more than 180 countries are in Bali to try to agree on how to set out negotiations for a global climate change deal, which it is hoped will be agreed in 2009.
But there have already been disputes been the US and the EU on the wording of the roadmap, which currently says developed countries must cut their emissions by 25% to 40% by 2020.
Christian Aid’s senior climate change policy analyst, Andrew Pendleton, called directly on Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to be ready to expose the US’s attempts to stall negotiations.
His warning came after United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon told ministers they would fail humanity if a roadmap to take the world towards a deal on the issue was not agreed upon.
Mr Pendleton said: “If European ministers are serious about tackling climate change, then the days when they can stand discreetly by while the United States shamelessly wrecks the negotiations by rejecting any mention of clear and binding targets for reductions in rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions are numbered.
“Secretary of State Hilary Benn must stand ready to expose the United States’ astoundingly irresponsible and shortsighted actions for what they are, and to speak up for the world’s poor, who desperately need Britain’s moral leadership at this time.”
The charity feared politicians were “poised to fail horribly” despite the recent spate of natural disasters and warnings from scientists, Mr Pendelton continued,
He said: “This appears to be what the United States is actually working for. If the UK and the rest of the EU want a different outcome at Bali, then they must work to isolate the US and to support their Indonesian conference hosts.”
Mr Ban had earlier told the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali that floods, famine, rising sea levels and loss of biodiversity were among the potential disasters if action on climate change was not taken now.
Leaving Indonesia without an agreement on a roadmap for a new deal on the issue would mean they had failed the people of the world and future generations, Mr Ban warned delegates.
He said: “The science is clear, climate change is happening, the impact is real, the time to act is now.
“As we convene here in Bali, the eyes of the world are upon us – this is a historic moment long in the making.”
The secretary general added: “We cannot rob our children of their future.”
Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose country is hosting the conference, also stressed the need for the US to be part of attempts to find a solution.
He said: “We must ensure that the United States of America, as the world’s biggest economy, the largest emitter of greenhouse gas, and the world leader in technology, is part of such post-2012 arrangement, because otherwise we will not be able to effectively address the climate change issue.”
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said the EU would “prefer” the target figures to stay in the document because they set the context for what industrialised nations needed to achieve.
But he implied they could be sacrificed due to the importance of achieving a deal for negotiations which had the backing of all countries and a specific end date of 2009.
He said: “We haven’t had that previously and that’s a really fundamental change, in the context of the growing understanding of the certainty of the science...
“This is about not shutting the door on anybody.”
US under-secretary of state for democracy and global affairs Paula Dobriansky later reiterated the US’s position against putting target figures in the roadmap.
An early draft had included the reference to the scientific evidence that developed countries must achieve cuts of 25% to 40% by 2020.
But Dr Dobriansky said: “We do not want to be prejudging outcomes here, we do not want to predetermine where we come out of this process.”
Earlier, the new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was applauded for signing the Kyoto protocol as one of his first actions after winning the elections.
His signature means the US is one of the last developed countries not to have signed the treaty.
Mr Ban acknowledged it may be “too ambitious” of delegates to expect to be able to agree on targets for greenhouse gas emissions until later down the road, but said Bali needed to launch negotiations on international agreement.
Saudi Arabia was also said to be withholding its agreement, while discussions on transferring green technology to developing countries had effectively stalled.
The UN has announced it is offsetting all travel to and from the Bali conference, and would be becoming climate neutral as an organisation.
But it was later reported that Mr Ban was about to fly the “wrong way round” the world on to a donors’ meeting on the Palestinian Territories in Paris via a concert in New York.
The UN Environment Programme spokesman Nick Nuttall defending Mr Ban, saying: “What does the world expect the Secretary General do, row across the Pacific single handed?”
“This kind of finger-pointing that he’s using an aircraft to go about his important job seems to be a bit sad, in comparison to what he is trying to achieve.”