But even the most optimistic forecasts for the six days of talks foresee only incremental progress amid the continuing fallout from last year's failure in Copenhagen by world leaders to forge a comprehensive deal.
"Our expectations are not very high, in the sense that we have not witnessed a willingness from governments to really move the negotiations forward," Greenpeace International climate policy director Wendel Trio told AFP.
The talks in Tianjin are instead aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the 194-member UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico, starting on November 29.
The final objective is a treaty aimed at curbing the greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming, which in turn could have catastrophic consequences on the world's climate system.
If all goes well, the treaty would be sealed a year later in South Africa and in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires at the end of 2012.
But first negotiators have to cooperate in Tianjin.
"Tianjin... is where governments will need to cut down the number of options they have on the table, identify what is achievable... and muster political compromises that will deliver what needs to be done in Cancun," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said.
Negotiators in Tianjin are expected to focus on preparing potential deals on specific issues such as co-operating on clean energy technologies and rewarding developing nations for protecting rainforests.
An intriguing backdrop to the latest talks is that China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and blamed by many in the developed world for derailing Copenhagen, decided to host its first UNFCCC conference.
Analysts say it is doing so partly to demonstrate its commitment to the UN process and clean energy.
"We think this is a significant step showing that China wants to be an active participant and contributor to the negotiations," said Natural Resources Defense Council China programme director Barbara Finamore.
"It's probably trying to show it is... taking the lead in negotiations and not be seen as obstructionist."
Finamore and other experts also said China's claim that it was striving to limit its greenhouse gas emissions was valid.
"It's important to note that China has not just stood still since the Copenhagen negotiations," Finamore said, citing its efforts to meet domestic energy efficiency targets and huge investment in renewable energies.
Nevertheless, China is expected to remain firm in Tianjin and beyond on many of the key disputes with the United States and other developed nations that have led to the current gridlock.
One of the highly sensitive issues is how much money developing countries will receive to help them deal with climate change.
Of the few successes at Copenhagen was a pledge by developed nations to give poor countries 30 billion dollars in initial funding from 2010 and 2012, rising to a total of 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.
But developing countries have questioned the legitimacy of some of the funds already committed, complaining they have just been transferred from other aid budgets or offered as loans.
The United States, meanwhile, insists developing countries must commit to being transparent over how the money will be spent before they can receive it.
In this hugely complex process, observers fear negotiations on emissions curbs will continue to stall until there is substantial progress on the funding issue.