After almost two weeks of marathon discussions, delegates have agreed on both the agenda for the negotiations and a 2009 deadline for completing them so that a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions can enter into effect in 2013.
Under the so-called Bali Roadmap, the key issues during the upcoming negotiations will be: taking action to adapt to the negative consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods; devising ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; finding ways to deploy climate-friendly technology; and financing adaptation and mitigation measures.
Participating countries have also agreed on a series of steps that can be taken immediately to strengthen their commitment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such as combating deforestation in poor countries, the scaling up of investment in green technology and enhancing funding for adaptation measures.
The text does not specify or mandate emissions targets, but it does say that deep cuts in emissions will be needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
In a statement issued after the Bali Roadmap was adopted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "a pivotal first step toward an agreement that can address the threat of climate change, the defining challenge of our time," adding that the agreement had met all the benchmarks for success he set out when the Conference began.
The Secretary-General said he "appreciates the spirit of cooperation shown by all parties to achieve an outcome that stands to benefit all humanity."
Mr. Ban returned today to Bali, after a one-day visit to Timor-Leste, to take part in the final stages of the Conference, which was extended by an extra day as delegates closed in on a deal.
But even a few hours before the Roadmap was adopted, it was not clear there would be any breakthrough, prompting Mr. Ban to appeal to delegates not to "risk everything you have achieved so far... The hour is late. It is time to make a decision."
Mr. Ban's statement welcoming the Roadmap's eventual adoption was echoed by leading UN and international environmental officials at the Conference.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said Bali had produced "a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change. Parties have recognized the urgency of action on climate change and have now provided the political response to what scientists have been telling us is needed."
In his closing address to the plenary session, the Conference President and Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar hailed the "number of forward-looking decisions" in the text.
"But we also have a huge task ahead of us and time to reach agreement is extremely short, so we need to move quickly," he said.
Four major UNFCCC meetings to implement the Bali Roadmap are planned for next year, with the first to be held in either March or April. The negotiations process is scheduled to conclude in 2009 at a major summit in Copenhagen.
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