The United Nations Climate Change Conference in South Africa has reached a hard-fought agreement to tackle global carbon emissions.

Consensus was reached on complex and far-reaching programmes meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades.

The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that would put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing commitments to control greenhouse gases.

The deal will take effect by 2020 at the latest.

The deal also set up the bodies that will collect, govern and distribute tens of billions of dollars a year to poor countries to help them adapt to changing climate conditions and to move toward low-carbon economic growth.

Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for another five years under the accord adopted today.

The breakthrough capped 13 days of hectic negotiations that ran a day-and-a-half over schedule, including two round-the-clock days of discussions.

The major issue involved the legal nature of the accord that will govern carbon emissions by the turn of the next decade.

A plan put forward by the European Union sought strong language that would bind all countries equally to carry out their emissions commitments.