After an extra day's hard negotiations, the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed Sunday on the second commitment period under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The deal called Durban Platform, which came after nearly 14 days of tough talks at the 194-party conference, helped save the UN climate conference from collapse.
The hard-won result reflected the deep divergence of the 194 nations over the form and timing of a possible replacement of the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire at the end of 2012
The protocol is so far the world's only legally binding treaty, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and requires the European Union to slash carbon emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the conference president who is also South Africa's international relations and cooperation minister, termed the deal as a "milestone."
"I am aware that no piece of this package on its own would completely satisfy your respective countries' national interests," she said.
"We came to Durban knowing that we will have to make compromises. That is the nature of multilateralism," she added.
The conference should have ended on Friday afternoon, but was extended until Sunday morning.
Japan, Russia and Canada have refused to join the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, while the United States has never ratified the protocol.
At the conference, the European Union prompted its road map to call for a timetable for everyone to make emissions cut commitments by 2015 and by 2020, while the United States says it will only pledge binding cuts if all major polluters make comparable commitments.
China and India say it would be unfair to ask them to make the same level of cuts as developed countries do. The developed countries caused most of the pollution responsible for global warming, they said.
Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation to the conference, said, "We expect political sincerity from developed countries next year in Qatar, to achieve the completion of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period negotiation, the enhanced emissions reduction commitment level and the implementation of finance and technology transfer commitment."