Merkel said in a statement that the climate agreement marks “the first time that the entire world community has obligated itself to act — to act in the battle against global climate change”.
She said while there was still a lot of work ahead, the deal is a “sign of hope that we will manage to secure the life conditions of billions of people for the future”.
The Paris agreement aims to keep global warming from rising another 1C between now and 2100, a key demand of poor countries ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.
Israel’s prime minister also welcomed the pact. At his weekly cabinet meeting, Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal “important”. He said Israel has an interest, like other countries, in slowing down global warming if not halting it altogether.
Israel’s environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay said a budget of about $200m (€182m) has been devoted to meet climate targets. He said Israel would move toward renewable energy sources, cleaner technology and more public transport. “We have a lot of steps to do and we are doing it now.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis is encouraging concerted efforts by all so that the pact can be put into action.
Francis has made care for the Earth’s environment one of his papacy’s themes, insisting that the world’s poor suffer heavily when climate change isn’t addressed.
Speaking to pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican, he said the deal’s “implementation requires concerted effort and generous dedication on the part of everyone”.
Francis expressed hope that “special attention, paid to the most vulnerable, be guaranteed”. He also urged “the entire international community to continue, with solicitude, on the path undertaken, in the sign of solidarity that will become ever more positive”.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said
he was “in a bit of a shock, a happy shock” after the deal was hammered out.
He said the Paris talks concluded with “something far more ambitious than the highest hopes” going into the negotiations.
“It’s going to be hugely challenging,” Kim said. “But I think for me what this agreement does is it tells us, whether you think it’s realistic or not, get to work.”
Loud applause erupted in the conference hall after French foreign minister Laurent Fabius gavelled the agreement. Some delegates wept, others embraced.
“It’s a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” US secretary of state John Kerry said.
Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira added: “Today, we’ve proven that it’s possible for every country to come together, hand in hand, to do its part to fight climate change.”
In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases — most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy — altogether in the next half-century, scientists said.
That is because the less we pollute, the less pollution nature absorbs.
Achieving such a reduction in emissions would involve a complete transformation of how people get energy, and many activists worry that despite the pledges, countries are not ready to make such profound, costly changes.
The deal now needs to be ratified by individual governments — at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions — before taking effect.
It is the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, representing a sea change in UN talks that previously required only wealthy nations to reduce their emissions.
“History will remember this day,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
“The Paris Agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.”
Speaking from Washington, US president Barack Obama said the climate agreement offers “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.
The deal commits countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times “well below” 2C, and says they will “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C.
The world has already warmed by about 1C since pre-industrial times.
Ben Strauss, a sea level researcher at Climate Central, said limiting warming to 1.5C instead of 2C could potentially cut in half the projected 280m people whose houses will eventually be submerged by rising seas.
More than 180 countries have ready presented plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions — a breakthrough in itself after years of stalemate.
However, those pledges are not enough to achieve the goals in the accord, meaning countries will need to cut more to meet the goal.