Delegates to a major UN climate change conference in Canada have started deliberating how to push forward the battle against global warming.
The effects of global warming are being compared to those of WMD
Thousands of participants in Montreal are pondering how to meet the targets in the Kyoto treaty, and what measures should follow when it expires in 2012.
The host nation wants to find a formula to include dissenting countries and developing states not covered by Kyoto.
The US insists it is serious on climate change, but is still resisting targets.
"With regard to what the United States is doing on climate change, the actions we have taken are next to none in the world," said US negotiator Dr Harlan L Watson, saying greenhouse gas emissions had dropped 0.8% since George Bush became president.
Demand for change
Environmentalists, however, scoffed at the claims.
Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace told the BBC it is pointless to attempt to re-engage the Bush administration on meaningful worldwide action on global warming.
"The one thing... we cannot afford is to allow this US administration to hold the rest of the world hostage while they go on about voluntary this and voluntary that," he said.
The talks will go on for about 10 days before ministers arrive and attempt to finalise an agreement.
"People who have sent their delegates here want real progress," insisted Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion. "That's why here in Montreal, we have to get results."
He said he was interested in seeking a rapprochement amongst countries with different views on the best approach to tackling climate change.
"Let us set our sights on a more effective, more inclusive long-term approach to climate change... More action is required now," he said at the opening of the conference.
UK government officials, negotiating on behalf of the EU as Britain holds the current presidency, are determined to use the Montreal talks to demonstrate that binding targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions are here to stay.
They also believe flexibility will be needed in the measures developing countries may be persuaded to adopt to limit the growth in their own emissions as their economies expand.
The BBC's correspondent in Montreal, Liz Blunt, says even big emitters of CO2 like India and China may be happy to reduce emissions if they can do it without hampering their rapid development.
The US, which fears the Kyoto deal could harm development and economic growth, said it would resist the Canadian proposal.
Because the US has not ratified Kyoto, it will take no formal part in discussions held under its provisions.
However, the Americans do have a place at the table in Montreal, because they are participants in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - the broader agreement which gave rise to the legally binding protocol.