BALI, Indonesia (CNN) -- The European Union and the United States reached agreement on a compromise for a global warming pact Saturday, setting the stage for intense negotiations in the next two years aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.
Environmental activists with symbolic green fingers outside the Bali summit.
The U.N. climate change conference had been scheduled to end Friday.
But the delegates returned to the negotiating table early Saturday after talks went well into the night before.
The new pact is meant as a roadmap for future climate talks, which will culminate in Copenhagen in 2009.
Humberto Rosa, a Portuguese environmental official, said the two sides had come to an agreement over wording about future emissions cuts that would not include specific guidelines.
The United States objected to the specific guidelines, saying including them was moving the process too quickly and would preempt any future negotiations.
The EU wanted an agreement to require developed countries to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. The United States opposes those targets, along with Japan and Canada.
The latest draft of the agreement removes the specific figures and instead, in a footnote, references the scientific study that supports them.
While the EU and the United States appeared to have ended their impasse, India had objections to other parts of the agreement, notably the contributions developed nations would make to help developing nations clean up their emissions problems. Talks were expected to continue for several more hours.
Environmental groups said the new pact makes the agreement less forceful than it might have been, but agreed that it is probably the best that could be had given the staunch objections of the Bush administration.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the conference earlier this week but left for a visit to East Timor, announced Saturday that he was unexpectedly returning to Bali to help shepherd the talks as they apparently neared a conclusion.
Without specifics, however, some believed the final agreement would amount to failure.
"Let me underline once again that the Bali road map must have a clear destination," said Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner.
But Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said such a stance would ignore the other progress being made at the conference. He said simply having a strong statement paving the way for future action would suffice.
"I wouldn't term that a failure at all," Pachauri said. "I think what would be a failure is not to provide a strong road map by which the world can move on, and I think that road map has to be specified with or without numbers. If we can come up with numbers, that's certainly substantial progress, and I hope that happens."
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change passed the Kyoto Protocol 10 years ago, with the goal of limiting greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
While 175 parties -- including the European Union -- ratified it, the United States has not. E-mail to a friend
CNN's Dan Rivers contributed to this report.