BARCELONA, Spain - About 40 world leaders plan to go to Copenhagen next month to boost the chances of clinching a U.N. climate deal, the United Nations said Friday as preparatory talks wound down with scant progress.

Developing nations in Barcelona accused rich countries of seeking to lower ambitions for an 190-nation deal in Copenhagen with suggestions that up to an extra year may be needed to tie up details of a legally binding treaty.

Inviting world leaders to the end of the Copenhagen meeting on December 7-18 could help overcome disputes, said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, on the final day of the week-long Barcelona talks.

My understanding is that 40 heads of state have indicated their intention to be present, he said. They include British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as leaders of African and Caribbean nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering attending, a spokesman said in Berlin. U.S. President Barack Obama is among those undecided.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has not formally invited leaders to the talks, currently due to be limited to environment ministers. There is no official figure of how many leaders will come, a Danish spokesman said.

The 175-nation Barcelona meeting made little progress toward a deal but narrowed options on helping the poor to adapt to climate change, sharing technology and cutting emissions from deforestation, delegates said.


The meeting exposed a deep rich-poor divide about sharing out the burden of curbs on greenhouse gas emissions meant as part of a worldwide assault to avert droughts, wildfires, extinctions and rising seas.

Developed countries are acting as a brake toward any meaningful progress said Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping of Sudan, chair of the Group of 77 and China, representing poor nations. African nations boycotted some talks Tuesday in protest.

We do not have the option of delay, said Dessima Williams of Grenada, representing small island states which say they risk being swamped by rising sea levels. She said a Copenhagen deal had to be legally binding and rejected talk of a delay.

De Boer said Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change but said time was too short to seal a full legal treaty in 2009.

He said Copenhagen should at least set 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goals for all rich nations, agree actions by the poor to slow their rising emissions and agree ways to raise billions in funding and mechanisms to oversee funds.

I believe that the U.S. can commit to a number in Copenhagen, de Boer said.

A U.S. climate change bill cleared its first hurdle in the U.S. Senate Thursday, but Democrats are likely to fall far short of their goal of passing legislation in the full Senate before Copenhagen.

That would make it difficult for the United States, the number two emitter after China, to offer an internationally binding emissions reduction target in Copenhagen. That in turn makes it hard for other nations to make commitments.

That's a decision yet to be made, Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation, said when asked if Obama would give a number before the Senate agreed legislation.

Activists criticized a lack of leadership in the run-up to Copenhagen, including from Obama. Two protesters wandered the conference hall dressed as aliens with green faces Friday asking: Where are your climate leaders? in robotic voices.

Where is the great Rudd?, one of them asked a group of Australian delegates, referring to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

In St Andrews, Scotland, British finance minister Alistair Darling said he would seek progress to raise cash to fight climate change at a group of 20 finance ministers' meeting.

I want to use this weekend to engage finance ministers in the task of making sure we can get money on the table. We have been very clear we think $100 billion will be required, he said.

(With extra reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Copenhagen, Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)