World leaders have finished signing a historic international treaty on climate change at the UN headquarters in New York, US.

In December last year, nearly 200 countries put the document together over two weeks of discussion at the UN’s COP21 climate conference in Paris, France (21st session of the Conference of Parties).

The agreement includes a target to limit global temperature rise to ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and says countries will ‘endeavour to limit’ the temperature rise still further to 1.5°C, to protect the most vulnerable low-lying and small island nations. It acknowledges, however, that these targets are ambitious and will require most countries to develop better climate change mitigation strategies. However, even including the most recent emissions reduction pledges temperatures are predicted to rise beyond the 2°C threshold.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called the deal a ‘new covenant for the future’.

Most of the countries, including individual member states within the EU, will now need to take the agreement back to their parliaments to be discussed and ratified. The deal could also be affected by developing political situations such as the US presidential election.