Europe and India have brokered an agreement to push ahead with a road map for a new climate treaty.
The latest round of United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, had been deadlocked as the EU pushed for a strong move towards a new legally-binding deal covering all countries to tackle greenhouse gas emissions - a move opposed by major polluters including India.
However in an early-hours huddle in the middle of the conference, delegates from both sides managed to draw up wording for the road map that they agreed on.
The EU wanted a mandate to negotiate the new treaty on global warming by 2015, covering all major emitters, in return for the bloc signing up to a second period of emissions cuts under the existing Kyoto climate deal.
But the options for the new legal deal had been watered down to add a "legal outcome" to the existing possibilities of a "protocol or another legal instrument" - the language which was used in the mandate for negotiating the Kyoto Protocol.
UK Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said legal outcome could mean "absolutely anything and nothing" and was unacceptable to most countries at the conference.
But in a hastily-agreed compromise the two sides settled on changing legal form to "an agreed outcome with legal force".
The deal, finally agreed after the scheduled talks overran by 36 hours, commits countries to negotiating the new treaty by 2015, with it coming into force from 2020.
It also recognises the "significant gap" between the voluntary cuts to greenhouse gas emissions countries have already pledged and the reductions needed to keep global temperatures rising by more than 2C and avoid "dangerous" climate change.
UK Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has warned the science shows action before a new treaty came into force in 2020 was necessary to actually cut emissions by the levels needed to address global warming.