"I think frankly Cancun is headed nowhere because the financial commitments made by the developed countries at Copenhagen have not been fulfilled and are unlikely to be fulfilled in any substantial measure," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Press Trust of India on the sidelines of the Major Economies Forum meeting in New York Monday.
Delegates from around the world met last December in Copenhagen, Denmark, to draft a treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol but failed to reach a comprehensive global agreement. The interim agreement, known as the Copenhagen Accord, included establishing a "fast start" fund to provide $30 billion from 2010-12 for assistance to developing countries in addressing climate change.
The United Nations will try again to achieve an agreement during the next Cancun summit.
"I don't expect a breakthrough but I don't expect a breakdown either," Ramesh said, adding that expectations for Cancun should be "very, very modest."
Because its political and economic situation "is not in the most stable condition," he said, the United States isn't in a position to play a leadership role in tackling climate change.
The minister noted that discussions about the Cancun conference during the MEF were "circuitous."
"The Europeans will not do anything until the Americans do something ... the Americans will not do anything until the Chinese do something ... and we go round the merry-go-round," he said.
Other countries attending the two-day MEF meeting are Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. The European Union is also in attendance.
The top U.N. climate official, Christiana Figueres, during a visit to India earlier this month, acknowledged that a "trust deficit" had plagued last December's Copenhagen summit, as small groups of nations said they were ignored during the negotiations.
She tried to assure India that there would be improvements in the Cancun meeting.
"Lessons have been learned" from Copenhagen, and there would be a "definite" commitment to trust and transparency in Cancun, said Figueres, who was appointed to the post of executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Conventions on Climate Change in July.
But Ramesh is already looking beyond Cancun.
"Clearly now the focus is on post-Cancun ... we recognize that there is no breakthrough possible in Cancun but let's now try to cut our losses and see what we can do after Cancun," Ramesh said Monday.