China’s climate chief has warned that the UN climate talks are “deadlocked” in certain areas, as ministers from around the world scramble to reach agreement before the talks end this weekend. Xie Zhenhua, China’s senior climate official, said the negotiations were at their “most intense” point, and that finance commitments to help developing countries address climate change had become a sticking point.

China has been thrust into the spotlight at this year’s UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, amid a leadership vacuum created by the US, which has said it planned to withdraw from the Paris agreement.  In unusually strong language, Mr Xie said he was “disappointed” at the US withdrawal and urged the country to reclaim its place at the climate talks.

“We hope that the US will come back a little sooner, back into this climate arena, and use its leadership,” he said in a briefing with journalists on Thursday. “The US has been an important country and player in this process.”

Many negotiators say the absence of US political leadership has exacerbated the challenges at this year’s talks, COP24, which are trying to reach agreement on a set of rules for the Paris climate accord.  As the annual talks near the end of the second week of negotiations, which have already featured several all-night negotiating sessions, little consensus has emerged on what those rules will look like.