European Union leaders clinched an agreement on Friday on a bold long-term strategy for energy policy and climate change aimed at leading the world in the fight against global warming, diplomats said.
The deal setting binding targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy sources, promoting energy efficiency and using biofuels laid down a challenge to the United States and other industrialized powers to follow suit.
"There's a deal on the whole package," one diplomat said. He explained that while the 27 leaders had set binding Europe-wide objectives, "setting national targets will be done with the consent of the member states".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired a two-day summit, put forward the key compromise to secure agreement to set a legally binding target for renewable fuels such as solar, wind and hydro-electric power the most contentious issue.
Leaders accepted the target of 20 percent of renewable sources in EU energy consumption by 2020 in exchange for flexibility on each country's contribution to the common goal.
"This text is indeed a breakthrough as regards the environment and climate change policy of the European Union," Merkel said.
Germany added wording to win over states reliant on nuclear energy, led by France, or coal, such as Poland, and small countries with few energy resources, such as Cyprus and Malta, by adding references to the national energy mix.
"Differentiated national overall targets" for renewables should be set "with due regard to a fair and adequate allocation taking account of different national starting points", it said.
On Thursday, the 27 leaders committed themselves to a target of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for heating the planet, by 20 percent by 2020 and offered to go to 30 percent if major nations such as the United States, Russia, China and India follow suit.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called it "the most ambitious package ever agreed by any commission or any group of countries on energy security and climate protection.
The statement also set a 10 percent minimum target for biofuels in transport to be introduced by 2020 in a cost-efficient way.
Renewables account for less than 7 percent of the EU energy mix and the bloc is falling short of its existing targets both for low-carbon energy and to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
In an attempt to balance pro- and anti-nuclear power states, wording was added on the contribution of nuclear energy "in meeting growing concerns about safety of energy supply and CO2 emissions reductions while ensuring that nuclear safety and security are paramount in the decision-making process".
Several EU states are fundamentally opposed to using nuclear power or, like Germany, in the process of phasing it out.
Anti-nuclear Austria hastened to say that in its eyes nuclear power had nothing to do with sustainable energy.
Poland won a commitment to "a spirit of solidarity amongst member states" in the draft code for western Europe helping former Soviet bloc states if Russia cuts off energy supplies.
Source: China Daily/agencies