Negotiators have agreed on a text to be approved by world leaders meeting this week in Rio at a summit intended to put society on a more sustainable path.
Environmental groups and charities working on poverty issues believe the agreement is far too weak.
The Rio+20 gathering comes 20 years after the Earth Summit, also held in the Brazilian city.
The text has yet to be signed off by heads of government and ministers, but it seems that no changes will be made.
The European Union was the group most unhappy with what they saw as the low level of ambition in the text.
As the current holders of the EU presidency, Denmark has been the most strident critic of the lack of ambition in the text , which was issued by the Brazilian host government last Friday and discussed over the weekend.
Environmental and developmental groups are dismayed by many aspects of the agreement.
In large part, it merely “reaffirms” commitments governments have made previously.
Activists mounted a huge Twitter campaign on Monday in an attempt to persuade governments to make a commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies.
However, the final text reaffirms previous commitments to phase them out if they are “harmful and inefficient”, without setting a date.
There will be a limited upgrade for the U.N. Environment Programme. Corpora tions will be invited – but not mandated – to report on their environmental and social impact.
A process will be established leading to a set of sustainable development goals to come into affect in 2015 alongside extensions to the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The text calls for “urgent action” on unsustainable production and consumption, but it gives no detaisl, or a timetable, on how this can be achieved, and no clear direction as to how the world economy can be put on a greener path.
“This damp squib of a draft negotiating text makes it clear the Rio talks lack the firepower needed to solve the global emergency we’re facing,” said Friends of the Earth’s Director of policy and campaigns, Craig Bennett, in Rio.
“Developed countries have repeatedly failed to live safely within our planet’s limits. Now they must wake up to the fact that until we fix our broken economic system we’re just papering over the ever-widening cracks.”
More than 100 world leaders are expected in Rio on Wednesday to attend the summit.
They include presidents and prime ministers from the large emerging economies, including China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.
But U.S. President Barack Obama will not be there, and neither will U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are all sending ministers in their places.