COP27 entered its final week Monday with countries that grew rich burning fossil fuels and developing nations reeling from climate impacts at loggerheads over how to speed and fund reductions in carbon pollution.
Somewhere in the middle, China -- accounting for 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, by far the largest share -- is feeling pressure from both sides, not only to enhance its carbon cutting goals but to step up as a donor nation, negotiators and analysts say.
At last year's UN climate summit in Glasgow, nearly 200 countries vowed to "keep alive" the Paris Agreement's aspirational goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Nearly 1.2C of warming so far has seen a cascade of increasingly severe climate disasters, such as the flooding that left a third of Pakistan under water this summer, claiming at least 1,700 lives and inflicting $30 to $40 billion in damage.
The Glasgow Pact urged nations to ramp up their emissions reduction commitments ahead of this year's critical summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
But with the exception of Australia and Mexico, only a handful of smaller economies heeded the call, leaving the world on track to hot up by about 2.5C -- enough, scientists say, to trigger dangerous tipping points in Earth's climate system.
At the COP27's midpoint, little has changed.
"Parties are basically staring each other down, thinking they have done their part and waiting for the other side to move," said the head of WWF France, Pierre Canet.
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As ministers arrive to cut through political knots above the pay grade of front-line negotiators, focus will turn to a crucial "decisions" document that will reveal the consensus reached -- or not.
"All the big political crunch issues are unresolved," said Alden Meyer, a senior analyst at climate think tank E3G.
To accelerate decarbonisation, many developing nations -- including small island states whose very existence is threatened by rising seas -- favour a deepened commitment to the 1.5C target, with specific mention of the fossil fuels that drive emissions.
US special envoy for climate John Kerry on Friday called out countries "whose 2030 goals are not yet aligned with the Paris temperature goal," a thinly veiled allusion to China.
A reality-check report released at COP27 last week showed CO2 emissions -- which must decline nearly 50 percent by 2030 to keep the 1.5C target in play -- from coal, gas and oil are on track to hit record levels in 2022.
But China and India have objected to such efforts, with Beijing pointing out that the binding target agreed in Paris was "well below" 2C, not 1.5C.