New Delhi: Pessimism shadows the penultimate round of climate change negotiations in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where delegates are meeting from Monday until 6 November.

Divisions persist between industrial nations and the developing world on commitments by rich countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and on how the developing countries can lower the upward trajectory of their own emissions.

Urgent concern: Cyclists ride past the Royal Palace in Madrid on Sunday. Hundreds of cyclists took to the streets in the Spanish capital to highlight the need to act on the question of climate change. Paul White / AP

“Time has almost run out," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told delegates in a video message. “In Barcelona, all nations must step back from self-interest and let common interest prevail."

De Boer said earlier, at a conference on technology development and transfer on 22 October in New Delhi, that any legally binding treaty in Copenhagen has to include ambitious emission cut targets by developed nations.

He listed other vital elements of a treaty as “nationally appropriate mitigation actions" by developing nations, predictable sources of finance and technology and an effective institutional framework.

Thirty seven developing nations, led by India and China, have also demanded that rich nations cut their emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 on the basis of their historical emissions, which is far from the offers on the table at present.

On the issue of finance for poor countries, the European Union (EU), in meetings over Thursday and Friday, said developing nations will need €100 billion (Rs6.9 trillion now) a year from 2020 to cope with climate change.

EU leaders have, however, failed to put a figure to what their share would be of the total requirement, while the US has not mentioned any figure at all.

Developing nations have demanded that developed countries pay 1% of their gross domestic product, or GDP, to poor nations.

The US’ participation in the next commitment period for emission cuts is essential as it is currently the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and commitments from other developed and developing nations are contingent on the contribution of the US.

Some countries, however, are optimistic that while a full-fledged treaty might not happen by December, some aspects of it could be thrashed out.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking about the finance estimates unveiled by the EU, said: “I think this is a breakthrough that takes us forward to Copenhagen."

But with time running out, scepticism is mounting that a treaty can be reached in Copenhagen.

“It is realistic to say that in Copenhagen we will not be able to conclude a treaty, but it is important to lay down a political framework which will be the basis of the treaty," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the close of the European Summit in Brussels on Friday.

Even with that framework, she said, “negotiations will drag out longer until we get a treaty".

AP and Reuters contributed to this story.