Africa is sticking to its guns by pushing for the second commitment of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol despite ambivalences by economic powerhouses - Russia, United States, Japan, Canada and their partners among others.
With pronouncements by developed nations that they are not supporting the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, indications are that the UN Climate negotiators have shifted their focus and are now inching closer to establishing a Green Climate Fund, designed to help poor nations tackle global warming and bring them in to a new global effort to fight the effects of climate change.
Word in the corridors of the ICC is that the move is aimed at pacifying developing countries and salvaging the elusive middle ground position regarding the legally binding Kyoto Protocol.
Canada has described Kyoto Protocol as 'history', preferring instead to focus on the Cancun Agreements and the Bali Action Plan.
Russia on the other hand has proposed that the UN convention be amended - a rare demand at the climate talks. It has insisted that since the global and national economies have changed over time several developing countries should be made to graduate onto the list of nations required to make emission cuts in terms of the climate compact.
The Russian proposal did not include any formula or methodology on how this amendment should be put into practice but it did raise suspicions among developing countries that there might be a hidden agenda to push binding emission reduction targets over to the developing world. In a unique show of strength, developing countries voted en bloc to blocked Russia's proposal to breach the firewall between rich and poor nations in the UN climate talks.
But, the African Group of Negotiators are adamant that COP 17 should operationalise the climate fund for purposes of channeling adaptation and mitigation finances that will help prop up programmes in most parts of Africa, and other developing countries.
Chief negotiator for the African Group, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo said the negotiations were becoming more complex hence the decision to press parties to agree on a legally binding Green Climate Fund compelling rich nations to contribute towards it.
Rich countries have pledged up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to aid poor states most directly affected by rising global temperatures to adapt their economies and to protect themselves from adverse weather. "While there are inconsistences in the way parties are negotiating, our minimum demands are the climate fund should be operational by the time we leave Durban. Adaptation funds should be channeled into this fund so that we begin mitigation programmes from here. Parties should also ensure it is legally binding to compel developed countries to act. We cannot wait for some other time," Mpanu Mpanu said.
But critics believe it could remain a hollow shell unless there is also agreement on where the actual funds come from - and how the money is spent. "I have a fair amount of confidence this is going to get done in a positive way. Only a few technical operational details remained to be thrashed out," US climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters on Wednesday.
China has said it wants the fund set up before it will make its domestic climate efforts binding under an international agreement from 2020. Other important developing countries also want the fund's design agreed in Durban.
"It is our priority to have the fund adopted and functional in South Africa," Brazilian climate envoy Luiz Alberto Figueiredo told Reuters.
Mexico, which hosted climate talks last year, and has offered to host the headquarters of the planned fund, said a deal was "within reach" and could lead to progress in other parts of the climate change negotiations. "It helps a lot," said Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico's lead negotiator.
Mpanu Mpanu said it was better to establish a shell while working on where to get fast start finances needed by Africa to save its one billion people affected by greenhouse gas emissions from Western countries.
Some cash could come from imposing a charge for carbon emissions on international shipping, but it is unclear whether ministers will adopt that proposal made in draft texts.