Countries meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18) that ended in Doha, Qatar on the weekend agreed on a firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015, and launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
They further agreed on a path to raise the necessary ambition to respond to climate change, endorsed the completion of new institutions, and agreed on ways to deliver scaled-up climate finance and technology to developing countries.
The Kyoto Protocol, the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries commit to cutting greenhouse gases, has been amended so that it will continue as of 1 January 2013. The first commitment period ends on 31 December 2012. The length of the second commitment period will be eight years.
The agreement came two days after Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa delivered South Africa's country statement to the conference, urging the delegates to use the Doha talks to find a global solution to the current climate change crisis.
"South Africa views the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol as the cornerstone of the Doha agreement" Molewa said.
From the outset, South Africa was clear that a strengthened international climate regime was needed to ensure global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent climate change from undermining development of the African continent.
Governments have agreed to speedily work toward a universal climate change agreement covering all countries from 2020, to be adopted by 2015, and to find ways to scale up efforts before 2020 beyond the existing pledges to curb emissions so that the world can stay below the agreed maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise.
Governments also agreed at the Doha summit on the completion of new infrastructure to channel technology and finance to developing nations.
Korea has been endorsed as the location of the Green Climate Fund and the work plan of the Standing Committee on Finance. The Green Climate Fund is expected to start its work in Sondgo in the second half of 2013, which means it will be able to launch activities in 2014.
In terms of long-term finance, developed countries were encouraged to increase their efforts to provide finance between 2013-15 at the average annual level with which they provided funds during the 2010-2012 "fast-start" finance period.
Governments will in the meantime continue a work programme on long-term finance during 2013 under two co-chairs to contribute to the ongoing efforts to scale up the mobilisation of climate finance.
Germany, the UK, France, Denmark, Sweden and the EU Commission announced concrete finance pledges of an estimated US$6-billion for the period up to 2015.
Countries also agreed on support mechanisms for developing countries. Part of the support is a registry that will record developing country mitigation actions that seek recognition or financial support. The registry will be a flexible, dynamic, web-based platform.
Parties will meet again at the next UN Climate Change Conference - COP19 - in Warsaw, Poland at the end of 2013.