Climate Change Minister Nick Smith yesterday hailed a "major breakthrough" in climate change talks which ended on Saturday as developing and developed nations agreed on an international framework for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, some major players were yesterday less upbeat, saying they were simply relieved the talks in Cancun, Mexico, didn't descend into the acrimonious failure seen at the Copenhagen summit last year. They warned there was still a long way to go towards a workable new international deal.

Delegates from 193 countries on Saturday agreed on what has been described as the first truly global plan to cut carbon emissions and to set up a US$100 billion ($134 billion) a year fund to help developing countries tackle climate change.

For the first time, all countries are committed to cutting carbon emissions. Rich nations also have to pay a total of US$100 billion a year from 2020 into a "green fund" to help poor countries adapt to floods and droughts. The money will also help developing countries - including China and India - switch to renewable energy sources.

It has not been decided how the money will be raised.

"The major breakthrough that New Zealand welcomes is the eloquent mix of measures that have both developed and developing countries contributing solutions for climate change," Dr Smith told the Herald from Cancun yesterday.

After a decade-long "Mexican standoff" Dr Smith said it was "a huge step forward that we've got a workable framework".

A crucial part of the deal was a system by which nations' targets and actions would be measured, he reported.

New Zealand Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser had been "absolutely pivotal" in those discussions.

But Dr Smith's Indian counterpart, Jairam Ramesh, told Reuters the most important thing from the conference was that the multilateral process "has received a shot in the arm" after reaching an historic low in Copenhagen.

"It will fight another day," he said, but "could yet fail".

Dr Smith conceded "a power of work" remained for officials to do between now and next year's conference in Durban to turn Cancun's "political agreement" into a ratifiable and legally binding treaty.

Nevertheless, one of the most important achievements at Cancun was the re-establishment of good faith.

Dr Smith said it was "a big call" for New Zealand to proceed with its emissions trading scheme (ETS) this year. "I strongly say that it was the right thing to do, and the progress that has been made in Cancun has reaffirmed that."

He acknowledged concerns that as other countries, particularly developing nations, continued emitting greenhouse gases unabated, "our efforts would come to nothing".

"The fact that we've been able to get a pretty fair sharing of burden between developing and developed countries provides reassurance. I've also got no doubt that the success of Cancun will reignite domestic policy efforts in countries like Australia, Canada, and the US."

Dr Smith is to announce terms of reference for a review of New Zealand's ETS before Christmas. He said comparing progress made by other countries, particularly our major trading partners, would be a major focus.

"This Government wants to make progress but is mindful of getting ahead of the play. Our policy directive is to ensure New Zealand does its fair share."

Dr Smith said he was disappointed little progress was made in achieving recognition of some wood products as carbon sinks (reservoirs which store carbon), which would have reduced New Zealand's international emissions liability.

He said some progress had been made on this issue and also around land-use flexibility when pre-1990 forests were harvested.

While wider agreement was not secured, the issues would be discussed at coming negotiations.

Cancun's advances
* 193 countries agreed to a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

* A fund is to be set up by rich nations to help poor countries adapt to floods and droughts.

* $134 billion a year will be paid to the 'green fund' from 2020.

* The money will also help developing countries like India and China switch to renewable energy.