United Nations negotiators in Mexico are desperately trying to break deadlocks and come up with some form of agreement that will satisfy the 200 nations involved in the climate change summit.
No-one is expecting a legally binding document by the end of the talks, but they do know if they do not make progress, it is going to be harder to convince the international community that the summits are working.
Australia’s Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, indicated as much when he spoke at the conference, saying the very credibility of the climate talks is at risk.
He says many countries are taking huge strides in cutting greenhouse gas emissions within their own borders, and even if agreement cannot be reached on a global scale, he wants Australia to match that kind of effort.
“No-one should underestimate the challenge in Australia to make the economic reform required to reduce carbon pollution,” he said.
“Our Government has tried three times to introduce a carbon price during our last term and was unsuccessful due to political opposition, however I reiterate our determination to pursue the introduction of a carbon price into our economy.
“It is a policy that is firmly in our national interest and one that will contribute to emissions reductions.”
In 2009, the summit in Denmark produced the Copenhagen Accord.
Under that accord, the US, China and another 83 countries made voluntary pledges to reduce emissions or at least to limit their growth.
Now countries want to cement those pledges in Cancun, but the familiar fault lines between rich and poor nations have re-emerged and the roadblocks remain.
Mr Combet says there is a growing sense that the very future of the UN process could take a hit if some kind of agreement does not come out of these talks.
“Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted by process issues and negotiating tactics. It is time now to refocus on the major task at hand,” he said.
“It is imperative for the credibility of this process that we are able to make progress here at this conference.
“Australia will continue to make every effort to support a successful outcome.”
But there are murmurings that intransigence from Japan, China, the US or Bolivia could scuttle hope of even moderately small deals being done.
Almost 15,000 people are attending the conference and the huge crowd has been told this meeting has to end by Friday evening in Mexico.
But with the haggling continuing, the UN’s climate chief has told them to redouble their efforts.
Australia’s parliamentary secretary for climate change, Mark Dreyfuss, is also in Cancun and says negotiations are moving forward.
“The negotiations are proceeding. They are very difficult, but I suppose you could say they’ve been difficult since Copenhagen,” he said.
“Minister Combet has been involved in some very high-level negotiations and I’ve been assisting with a number of bilateral meetings. I can’t say one way or another other than that they are difficult.”
Australia has announced it will give $45 million to Indonesia as part of a climate change assistance package for developing countries.