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EU ministers urge tougher greenhouse gas emissions targets

European Union ministers backed ambitious targets February 20 to cut greenhouse gas emissions and started the sensitive process of determining which countries should carry the heaviest burden to combat climate change.

Environment ministers from the 27-nation bloc supported a binding commitment to cut EU emissions unilaterally by at least 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. (HNN 1/10/07) They also backed a call for industrialized nations to reduce emissions of the gases blamed for heating the earth by 30 percent over that period, a goal the EU would match if other rich nations such as the United States joined in.

�So as far as these two objectives are concerned, those are things we agree,� said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency. The targets would be mandatory, he said.

The ministers were preparing for a March 8-9 summit of the 27-nation bloc's leaders, who will have the final say on the EU's climate change and energy strategy. The targets are expected to form the basis of the EU's negotiating position for a global agreement to cut emissions after 2012, when the first period covered by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change ends.

The unanimous decision was a victory for the executive European Commission, which originally proposed the figures and will represent the EU in international talks. But several countries tempered their support with pleas for concessions to make their national share of the unilateral EU reductions less severe.

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