Nearly 200 delegates from nations around the world on Saturday approved a framework to contain carbon emissions, in a move greeted as a groundbreaking accord that requires the world's economies to take concrete steps to regulate gases linked to global warming.
After two weeks of marathon negotiations conducted in the shadow of the Paris terrorist attacks which shocked the world, national representatives put a stamp of approval on a blueprint that commits signatories to curbing climate-altering greenhouse gases.
In a statement at the White House, President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a framework that "offers the best chance to save the one planet we have." Climate change is a signature issue frequently mentioned as being central to Obama's legacy.
"This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future," he said. "We've shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge."
Earlier on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the deal an "historic" measure for transforming the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades, and turn the tide on global warming.
Officials appeared to have resolved the final sticking points, with key features including a more ambitious goal for limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius; a $100 billion a year floor for funding developing nations beyond 2020; and a five-year cycle for reviewing national pledges to take action on greenhouse gas emissions.
The accord is being interpreted as a masterstroke of international diplomacy, at a time when Western powers have encountered difficulty forging agreement on major issues facing the global economy—terrorism and the massive flow of migrants seeking asylum in the West among them. In 2009, an attempt to strike a similarly comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen ended in failure.
The Paris accord "marks a decisive turning point in our response to climate change," said Miguel Angel-Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in a statement.
"I strongly applaud this historic commitment and the robustness of a deal that includes an ambitious target for limiting the global temperature rise, a five-year review cycle, clear rules on transparency, a global goal for resilience and reducing vulnerability and a framework for supporting developing countries," he added.