The agreement struck in Cancun, where representatives from 194 nations met to prepare a new climate protection treaty, calls for major emissions cuts, launches a multibillion-dollar fund to help poor nations adapt to climate change and finalizes a scheme to stop deforestation.
The secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said the agreement formed the basis for the largest mitigation effort in the history of climate negotiations.
"Cancun was a big step, bigger than many imagined might be possible," she said in a statement. "But the time has come for all of us to exceed our own expectations because nothing less will do."
The United Nations said even if all agreements are implemented, they still fall short of the level needed to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.
The global community at Cancun agreed to help developing countries adopt a green energy economy. The United Nations said industrialized nations will "soon have a clear, comprehensive structure" to direct the funding they promised to countries in need.
"Cancun has significantly expanded the menu of climate implementation and resources available to countries under the United Nations, and the U.N. system together is ready to respond rapidly in line with countries needs," said Figueres. "The imperative to act is now."