Copenhagen: African nations accused rich countries on Monday of trying to kill the UN`s existing Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gases, in a deep split four days before world leaders aim to forge a new UN climate pact.
Developed countries are trying to "collapse" the entire 192-nation talks, Kamel Djemouai, an Algerian official who heads the African group at the December 7-18 talks, told a news conference.
He said that plans by rich nations "means that we are going to accept the death of the only one legally binding instrument that exists now," referring to Kyoto. Other African delegates also said the rich wanted to "kill Kyoto".
Developing nations want to extend the existing Kyoto Protocol, which obliges rich nations except the United States to cut emissions of greenhouse gases until 2012, and work out a separate new deal for developing nations.
But most rich nations want to merge the 1997 Kyoto Protocol into a new, single accord with obligations for all as part of an assault on warming that the UN panel of climate scientists says will bring more heatwaves, floods and rising seas.
"We need two-track outcomes," Djemouai said, wearing a button on his jacket saying "Kyoto Yes".
Danish Minister Connie Hedegaard, presiding at the meeting, plans to hold talks on Monday to appoint environment ministers to try to break deadlock in key areas, such as the depth of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations by 2020, and cash to help the poor.
Most developed nations favor a single track largely because the United States, the number two greenhouse gas emitter behind China, is outside Kyoto. They fear signing up for a new Kyoto while Washington slips away with a less strict regime alongside big developing nations.
A summit of 110 world leaders will try to agree a solution on Friday.
British Energy and Climate Minister Ed Miliband expressed sympathy with developing countries who "don`t want the Kyoto Protocol track to be ended before we have a new legal instrument or instruments in place."
"Equally I think developing countries understand that for Kyoto parties to sign a partial treaty now with many countries outside it would be irresponsible for the climate," he said.
Such a deal would be "accepting we would have continuation of simply some countries in the treaty," he said.
Kyoto binds almost 40 industrialized nations to cut emission, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
The United States stayed out, reckoning Kyoto would cost too much and wrongly omitted developing nations, but President Barack Obama wants to take part in cutting emissions in a new deal stretching to 2020.
Separately a UN report projected that climate change will turn the oceans 150 percent more acidic by 2050, threatening coral reefs that are key refuges and feeding grounds for commercial fish species.
Oceans are turning gradually more acid as they absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, it said. The corrosive effect undermines the ability of corals, crabs or lobsters to build protective shells.