To overcome the current impasse in global climate negotiations we propose a compromise for sharing the remaining carbon budget, based on four elements. First, limiting initial action to the Major Economies Forum members would streamline negotiations greatly. Second, using consumption-based carbon accounting would overcome important fairness concerns of key developing countries. Similarly, applying equity principles of responsibility and capability to apportion the burden of emissions reductions within the group can address concerns of both the global north and south. And fourth, promptly bringing this compromise back to the United Nations negotiations for wider adoption will be critical. Based on an indicative carbon budget of 420 gigatonnes carbon dioxide over the period 2012–2050, our analysis shows that ambitious but feasible emissions reductions will be needed, with sharp differences by world economic groups. The compromise offers effectiveness, feasibility and fairness.