Major economies have resisted calls for bolder climate commitments as a UN summit in Madrid limps towards a delayed conclusion.
With the two-week gathering spilling into the weekend, campaigners and many delegates slammed Chile, presiding over the talks, for drafting a summit text they said risked throwing the 2015 Paris Agreement into reverse.
"At a time when scientists are queuing up to warn about terrifying consequences if emissions keep rising, and school children are taking to the streets in their millions, what we have here in Madrid is a betrayal of people across the world," said Mohamed Adow, director of climate and energy think-tank Power Shift Africa.
The annual climate marathon had been due to conclude on Friday, but dragged on with ministers mired in multiple disputes over implementing the Paris deal. The Paris agreement has so far failed to stem the upward march of global carbon emissions.
Last year, parties reached consensus on guidelines for most parts of the treaty, which will be implemented after 2020, but not the highly technical Article Six, which includes a global carbon trading mechanism. The mechanism allows countries to buy carbon emission credits to fulfill their carbon-cutting commitments - known as NDCs, or nationally determined contributions.
Article Six is one of the most frequently mentioned terms on the global climate conference this year, suggesting that little progress has been made over it.
Long-time participants in the talks expressed outrage at the unwillingness of major polluters to show ambition commensurate with the gravity of the climate crisis, after a year of wildfires, cyclones, droughts and floods.
The EU, small island states and many other nations had been calling for the Madrid decision to signal that the more than 190 countries participating in the Paris process will submit bolder pledges to cut emissions next year.
The agreement enters a crucial implementation phase in 2020, when countries are supposed to ratchet up their ambitions ahead of the next major round of talks in Glasgow.
If big economies such as China, India, Japan, Brazil, Australia and others fail to agree to more meaningful climate action soon, then scientists say already slim hopes of averting catastrophic temperature rises will all but vanish.
Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, told reporters that the United States, which has begun the process of leaving the Paris Agreement, Japan, and Brazil as among the biggest obstacles to meaningful action.
"Never have I seen the almost total disconnection we've seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiators are delivering in terms of meaningful action," said Alden Meyer, a climate policy specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
By most calculations, temperatures have already risen 1C since pre-industrial times and efforts so far put the world on course for a 3-4C rise by 2100, with potentially devastating consequences, particularly for vulnerable, developing countries.
"The planet is on fire and our window of escape is getting harder and harder to reach the longer we fail to act," said Meyer.
Reuters / APTN / Newshub.