European Union is claiming to be offering the deepest cuts -- at least 20 per cent against 1990 levels by 2020

Pledged greenhouse gas emission cuts from the industrial world are “not good enough,” the United Nations’ climate chief warned Tuesday -- as officials from 192 countries entered their second day of negotiations aimed at slowing global warming.

“We all know that the targets that are on the table at the moment from rich countries are not good enough,” Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in Copenhagen.

So far, the European Union is claiming to be offering the deepest cuts -- at least 20 per cent against 1990 levels by 2020 -- while U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed cutting his country’s emissions by around 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

But according to de Boer, such pledges will not be sufficient to meet scientists’ calls for a global reduction of between 25 and 40 per cent -- the range needed to avoid the worst impact of climate change.

While underlying the “very positive and encouraging” start to the conference, which began on Monday, de Boer urged negotiators to use the current week to the optimum.

Officials are currently engaged in procedural matters and technical discussions ahead of the arrival next week of environment ministers.

However, the most contentious political issues – country-specific emission targets and funding -- will only be tackled by world leaders during the final days of the conference.

And with just over a week left before their arrival, the negotiations remained mired by mutual recriminations and deep divisions over how much each party should do to prevent global average temperatures from rising above the potentially dangerous 2-degree limit.

“I have heard representatives of both Europe and the US say that the target that China has tabled can be improved upon; I have heard representatives from Europe and China say that the target tabled by the US can be improved upon ... and I have heard least developed states say that nobody’s targets are good enough at the moment,” de Boer said.

“So clearly we are going to have a very intense process of negotiations,” he said.

Developed and developing countries are also divided over how much money is needed to help poor nations adapt to climate change and mitigate its impact, and on whether existing or new organizations should handle the hundreds of billions of dollars that will be required.

The talks in Copenhagen are proceeding on a so-called two-track approach -- one aimed at revising and updating the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, and a second track extended to all countries, including those which did not ratify Kyoto, such as the United States.

Pressure on the parties to reach an ambitious deal was stepped up Tuesday by the publication of two new alarming reports.

One, by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the current year was likely to rank as one of the “10 warmest” since 1850.

Another report from Germanwatch, a pressure group, blamed a rise in “extreme weather events” for the death of 600,000 deaths and massive economic damage over the past two decades.

The report also ranked Bangladesh, Myanmar and Honduras as the “most affected” by climate change in the period 1990 to 2008.