Prime Minister John Key says APEC countries won't set a target for reductions in carbon emissions ahead of crucial climate change discussions in December.
Mr Key's comments come as the forum's 21 leaders look set to back down from a draft statement calling for a 50% cut to global carbon emissions.
Eighteen of the 21 leaders met to discuss climate change, as well as Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who will host next month's crucial talks in Copenhagen.
Mr Key says most of the leaders attending accepted a legally-binding agreement in the Danish capital is now not possible.
Mr Key says APEC will go into next month's talks having pledged to limit global warming to two degrees but without a target for reductions in carbon emissions.
He described a binding climate change agreement as a work in progress that could take two years to conclude.
APEC nations emit 60% of greenhouse gas pollution.
The APEC meeting is the last major gathering of global decision-makers before the UN climate summit in Denmark.
About 190 nations will gather in Copenhagen from 7-18 December to work out a global deal to fight climate change after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. Talks so far have been clouded by disputes between rich and developing nations.