Some 189 countries are debating a united response to the threat of climate change at a two-week conference in Nairobi.
The Kyoto Protocol has already taken a very small first step to curbing man's contribution to climate change, capping greenhouse gas emissions by some industrialised nations.
Scientists say much tougher caps are needed to avert catastrophic weather changes.
Developing countries have now come to accept that the developed world has to take time to work out the scope of the emissions cuts it can afford with available technologies.
''They have themselves proposed that this be a first step in the work map,'' said Michael Zammit Cutajar, head of the UN group set up to plot Kyoto's future post-2012.
''I don't think there will be a date on it. It will be a series of steps, on the overall understanding that the deal will be done in time for the parties to ratify before the end of 2012.'' The EU's chief negotiator, Outi Berghall from the current EU president Finland, also saw agreement on next steps: ''We want to establish a work programme and how to proceed. In my understanding it should be possible here because, even in Group 77 (the developing countries), it's understood that we need some analytical work.'' The European Union has accepted cuts to be implemented by 2012, when Kyoto's provisions expire.
Poorer nations had feared any delay in negotiations might pile pressure on them to make binding emissions cuts themselves.
They argue that they cannot take action on climate change until they pull themselves out of poverty.
But not all developing countries are in the same position, said Berghall: ''Some of the countries we classify as developing countries have higher GDP per capita than some in the EU, while some are very poor indeed.'' Asked about South Korea, for example, she said: ''We would like them to have a greater role ... even binding commitments. Of course that would be very welcome if they would take it.'' Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern last month injected fresh urgency in the climate change debate, saying failure to act could trigger severe floods and harsh droughts, uproot as many as 200 million people, and cause economic upheaval on the scale of the Depression of the 1930s.
Reuters AB GC2134