Business leaders have broadly welcomed the last-gasp international deal agreed in the early hours of the Durban Summit yesterday morning, which for the first time commits all countries to signing on to a new legally binding climate change treaty.
In dramatic scenes, ministers reached an agreement on a new text almost 36 hours after the scheduled close of the two-week summit.
The text, known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, will see the EU and a handful of other countries extend the Kyoto Protocol into a second commitment period, allowing for the continuation of emission reduction initiatives enabled by the treaty such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
In return all countries agreed to deliver a new protocol, another legal instrument, or an "agreed outcome with legal force" by 2015 that will then be enacted by 2020. The wording paves the way for large economies such as the US, China, India and Brazil to be subjected to legally binding climate change obligations for the first time.
The summit also agreed the structure for a new international Green Climate Fund with talks set to start next year on how to funnel $100 billion a year of finance to the fund each year from 2020.
Rhian Kelly, director for business environment at employers group the CBI, hailed the agreement as a "great result".
"Tangible progress towards a global deal in the form of a roadmap and the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is a great result and shows that the UN process is not dead in the water," she said.
"However, this isn't a deal itself and must be used as the base camp for the mountain we're still to climb. We need to keep the momentum going and ensure this roadmap results in something concrete. Businesses have not slowed their pace in managing their emissions, developing new low-carbon products, and investing in new sources of low-carbon energy -- we need the same level of ambition from our politicians."
The influential Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, which brought together over 350 global firms before the Durban Summit to call for an ambitious agreement through its Two Degree Challenge Communiqué similarly welcomed the new deal.
However, it warned that the four-year delay until a legal agreement will be reached means that the onus is on governments to "adopt national-level policies that are ambitious, transparent, measurable, and build the foundations for a future international framework".
Sandrine Dixson-Declève, director of the Corporate Leaders' Group on Climate Change, said: "Hundreds of businesses have articulated the urgent need for international action on climate change. With this agreement, the result of long and detailed negotiations, governments have shown what is possible. However there is still a long way to go and keeping the world below the threshold of 2 degrees C warming remains a real challenge that cannot be put off till 2020."
Joan MacNaughton, senior vice president of power and environmental policies at engineering giant Alstom, said that businesses will welcome the progress made at the Durban talks on a number of technical issues, such as reforms to the CDM.
"The progress made on the Green Climate Fund, and bringing CCS [carbon capture and storage] into the CDM, are serious and valuable steps forward," she said. "Governments now need to implement the decisions quickly and provide the resources so that a wide portfolio of low-carbon technologies can flourish around the world."