A total of 195 countries, signatories to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, have agreed a common rulebook for implementing the pact from 2020 following two weeks of protracted negotiations in Katowice, Poland.
The breakthrough late on Saturday was hailed as "positive for the world" by Michal Kurtyka, the Polish official who chaired the COP24 summit.
However, the deal got a lukewarm reception from some environmental groups, with Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan saying more ambitious targets should have been set.
“A year of climate disasters and dire warning from the world’s top scientists should have led to so much more,” she said.
“Recognising the urgency of raised ambition and adopting a set of rules for climate action is not nearly enough when whole nations face extinction.”
The deal, struck after all-night talks, will require every country to follow a uniform set of standards for measuring their carbon emissions and tracking their climate policies. And it calls on countries to step up their plans to cut emissions before another round of talks in 2020.
The final hours of negotiations were stalled on issues around carbon trading and efforts to ensure greater transparency – notably, more robust accounting on how greenhouse gas emissions, and countries efforts to reduce them, are reported.
The meeting postponed until next year decisions on pledging more ambitious emission reductions and on regulating the market for international carbon emissions trading.
Scientists have warned carbon emissions need to drop sharply by 2030 to prevent potentially catastrophic global warming. This was set out in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recent report, which was controversially not supported at the COP24 summit by a small number of big oil and gas producing states, including the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew, said: "While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments."
Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton welcomed the outcome, particularly "the agreement of the rule book which will ensure that all countries are reporting progress in a consistent and transparent manner".
Ireland was fully committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, Mr Bruton said. "The agreed rules put in place the structures for tracking global emissions; providing capacity-building and financial support; and facilitating action to adapt to the impacts of climate change," he added.
“My experience there highlighted the urgency of the work we are doing at home. The decisions we take now will define the next century. We must step up our response across the board, including all corners of society in facing up to the challenge we have before us,” he said.
Stressing the importance of a multilateral approach, Mr Bruton said the talks were a significant milestone. “International co-operation is crucial if we are to respond to this global challenge.”
"I'm not sure what planet our leaders are on. Not the same one as David Attenborough.
The deal was considered “progress” by the World Wide Fund for Nature. However, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of the fund’s climate and energy practice, said there was still a “fundamental lack of understanding by some countries of our current crisis”.
“Luckily, the Paris Agreement is proving to be resilient to the storms of global geopolitics. Now we need all countries to commit to raising climate ambition before 2020, because everyone’s future is at stake,” he added.
Oisín Coghlan, spokesman for the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, said it was clear that governments had failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impacts of climate change highlighted in October’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report.
"I'm not sure what planet our leaders are on. Not the same one as the scientists in the IPCC, or David Attenborough, or those struggling to farm in the face of an increasingly chaotic climate, or the young activists fighting to save their future," he said.
“At this climate conference negotiators took baby steps, when we need a giant leap. Thankfully communities and campaigners around the world are forging ahead to create the just transition we so desperately need. The people will lead and politicians will follow,” Mr Coghlan added.
Policy advisor for Christian Aid Ireland Jennifer Higgins said financial support to poorer countries was always going to be a sticking point. "Developing countries weren't demanding finance now, they wanted rules which showed that the needed finance to help them track and reduce their emissions, would come when promised."
Without such elements they would not be able to achieve their own mitigation responsibilities, nor deal with the effects of climate change they are already facing, she said.
“Some predictability has been achieved, but rich countries have been allowed to count almost anything and everything as climate finance, including commercial loans. This puts the sincerity of the $100 billion pledge for poor countries into question.”