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EU proposes unilateral greenhouse gas cuts

The executive commission of the European Union (EU) is proposing the EU commit to unilateral cuts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

EU officials said the 27-nation bloc also will challenge industrial nations around the world to adopt a collective cut of 30 percent by 2020 in the emissions blamed for climate change. The report will be put to EU governments for approval.

One thrust of the proposed Energy Policy for Europe is to reduce the proportion of electricity generated from gas, coal, and nuclear power and increase the share of renewable energy.

The Commission is also likely to propose a binding target of meeting 20 percent of EU energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, with no more than half from biofuels, officials said.

The Commission was set to recommend an energy market liberalization program that would break up of some of Europe's energy giants. However, given opposition from France and Germany, it is proposing a less radical second option allowing power generators to continue to own distribution networks that other companies eventually would operate, the officials said.

Despite EU claims to leadership, several member states have failed so far to meet existing commitments under the U.N. Kyoto Protocol that limits emissions of so-called greenhouse gases.

The new EU goal would be more ambitious than the existing 8 percent target cut from 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period adopted by the 15 members of the EU before its 2004 enlargement.

Pledging to extend and deepen the cuts could boost the EU's fledgling emissions trading system. The system allows major polluting industries to buy and sell emissions credits but has faltered because governments initially issued too many permits. Fewer permits would raise the price of emitting CO2, EU officials say.

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