BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – EU environment ministers said Tuesday they would cut overall carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and were ready to go to 30 percent if other industrialized nations would match European efforts to curb global warming.
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who led the talks, said all countries made it clear that a global goal was ''right and necessary in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century.''
But the EU's 27 nations are still to agree what each should do to meet a 20 percent target for the entire bloc, with eastern European countries as well as Finland, Spain and Denmark calling on other nations to share the burden.
Gabriel said the European Union was facing a ''historic decision'' on climate change and all ministers were well aware of the importance of striking a deal, not least because their children were keeping an eye on them.
''Those who took the floor said that their daughters asked them exactly what they did when they came to such meetings and did they come home with good results,'' he said. ''I think that's a pretty good incentive to make sure that we do go home with good results.''
He said Germany was prepared to go even further, saying the country's parliament had already backed a 40 percent cut if the EU set a 30 percent target.
''There will be some countries like Germany who will see a steeper reduction in greenhouse gases, and other countries, some of them no doubt in eastern Europe, that will have to achieve a lesser reduction in greenhouse gases because of the need to catch up economically,'' Gabriel said.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said EU nations had come a long way since last March, when leaders gave a vague direction to environment officials, telling them to look at a cut in global CO2 emissions of between 15 and 30 percent.
''Not even the word 'target' was there,'' he said.
European countries will try to see if other nations will go further when EU members Britain, France, Germany and Italy meet other G-8 nations – the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada – in the German resort of Heiligendamm June 6-8. They will also seek CO2 cuts from the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.
Only when there is a global agreement can EU nations fix exactly what CO2 cuts each nation can commit to. Those discussions on the EU's internal targets could set a different base year for reductions, Gabriel said.
The United Nations Kyoto protocol on climate change sets 1990 CO2 limits as the starting point. That won't change for the EU's target as a whole. But that year poses some problems for economies that have grown rapidly in the last two decades, particularly former Soviet bloc countries, because emissions have increased significantly since then.
Talks were to continue later Tuesday to cover other EU initiatives, including a mandatory limit on CO2 emissions from cars and whether to include aviation in the EU's emissions trading program.
Gabriel said environment ministers would revisit an attempt by energy ministers to fix a binding 20 percent target for all energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2020, but said he did not expect a final decision.
EU leaders meet on March 8-9 to determine Europe's general strategy to turn itself into a low-carbon economy, weaning itself off imported oil and natural gas, cutting energy consumption and doing more to combat climate change.