France has hailed the roadmap agreed at climate talks in Durban as an "important compromise", while the European Union dubbed it a "historic breakthrough".
The deal, reached after two days of round-the-clock wrangling, commits all countries that emit greenhouse gases to the same legal framework.
The roadmap, which will not come fully into operation until 2020, was "a success that guarantees the future of the  Kyoto Protocol", French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said in a statement.
Current measures to tackle carbon emissions are falling far short of the goal of limiting warming to 2.0°C.
According to research presented by German scientists, the world is on track for a 3.5°C rise, spelling worsening droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels that would affect tens of millions of people.
It is "an important compromise that saves our ambitions for a global and effective agreement against climate warming," he said.
"Where the Kyoto [protocol] divides the world into two categories, we will now get a system that reflects the reality of today's mutually interdependent world," Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate action, said in the statement.
And US chief negotiator Todd Stern found that the meeting "ended up quite well".
"The first time you will see developing countries agreeing, essentially, to be bound by a legal agreement," he said.
Environment campaigners were less enthusiastic.
The Kyoto Protocol has survived "in name only", according to Friends of the Earth Climate Justice Coordinator Sarah-Jayne Clifton.
"Led by the US, developed nations have reneged on their promises, weakened the rules on climate action and strengthened those that allow their corporations to profit from the climate crisis," she commented.
Greenpeace director Kumi Naidoo said that the US and its allies had "succeeded in inserting a vital get-out clause that could easily prevent the next big climate deal being legally binding".
"Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal that's put off for a decade," he said.
The agreement is scheduled to be approved in 2015 and be operational from 2020.