Negotiators have agreed a text to be approved by world leaders meeting this week in Rio to consider the worsening state of the global environment.
The Rio+20 gathering comes 20 years after the Earth Summit, also held in the Brazilian city.
It was called with the aim of putting humanity on a more sustainable pathway, including alleviating poverty.
Sources say discussions on the text have sparked heated debate on a number of issues.
The text calls for "urgent action" on unsustainable production and consumption, but it gives no detail, or a timetable, on how this can be achieved, and no clear direction as to how to green the world economy.
It does however reaffirm the commitments states have made to phasing out "harmful and inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies.
Environmental groups were quick off the mark to criticise the text.
Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns, Craig Bennett, in Rio, said: "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.
"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 from Wednesday to attend the summit.
They include new French President Francois Hollande, but not US President Barack Obama, or British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are sending ministers in their places.
Article originally published on bbc.co.uk