Tough negotiations have finally yielded an important climate agreement today at the UN climate conference. The deal, which for the first time commits developed and developing countries to action on emissions and adaptation, removes the final obstacle to the adoption of binding climate policy in the United States.

“This is an important moment. Much more is needed, but today marks a foundation for a global effort to fight climate change,” said Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute.

Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. As a small group of countries threatened to block the deal, the vast majority of countries elected to go ahead without them.

“In the end, countries recognized that this is an issue of survival,” Lash continued. “Rather than let their survival be held hostage by a handful of obstructionists, they concluded an agreement with significant emission cuts and financial pledges. These countries must now work without delay to make good on these commitments.”

“This deal provides a solid foundation for international action, including emissions targets, a new financial mechanism and transparent reporting and review to assess countries’ performance,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WRI’s Climate and Energy Program. “But more is needed to ensure a functioning legal instrument, and the ambition of the emission cuts still falls far short of what the science indicates. The agreement will need to be strengthened over time.”

“The pledges that have been brought forward this year include emissions targets amounting to a significant reduction in industrialized country emissions, ambitious developing country actions, finance and commitments to transparency,” said Rob Bradley, Director of WRI’s International Climate Policy Initiative. “These need to be inscribed in the Annexes to this agreement early in the New Year and viewed as international commitments. The U.S. Senate can and should follow through by passing strong domestic legislation.”

“Actions to cut emissions will be reported transparently, and subject to review within international guidelines. This provides a basis for countries to take action at the domestic level in the confidence that others are also playing their part.”

The political agreement struck today has immediate operational effect, including the mobilization of finance to build the clean energy economy in developing countries and to protect the poorest from severe climate impacts. These funds will amount to $10 billion annually from 2010 to 2012, increasing to $100 billion by 2020.

“Nobody would claim that this is a total solution to the climate challenge,” Morgan added. “But it does provide the framework for countries to move forward with ambitious national action. Action that will build clean energy markets, create jobs, enhance energy security, protect the world’s forests and help the poorest to deal with a changing climate. Now we need to focus on fulfilling and surpassing the promises made in Copenhagen.”