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Europe Unveils Ambitious Global Warming Package


The European Union unveiled an ambitious new plan to tackle climate change Wednesday, proposing deep emissions cuts and mandatory quotas of renewable energy by 2020. From Paris, Lisa Bryant has more on the proposals.

The EU's emissions cutting plan was widely expected, although not its details. It includes setting a mandatory 20 percent quota for the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, by the year 2020. Most of the 27 member nations must also by 2020 cut their emissions by 20 percent from 1990s levels.

EU members, environmentalists and businesses will have months to discuss and amend the proposals before they become law.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president for the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, said responding appropriately to climate change was the ultimate test for the current generation.

"What we can say simply, the 20-20-20 by 2020 goes. 20 percent of greenhouse gasses, if not 30 percent in case other developing economies agree. 20 percent of renewables, 20 percent of energy efficiency by 2020. This was agreed by the European Council. We may be proud that Europe is leading that effort," he said.

Businesses have criticized the EU's proposals, saying the cuts would undermine their competitive edge. Some EU states, such as Denmark, have also criticized the cuts, arguing richer countries will be forced to bear the brunt of emissions cuts.

Meanwhile, environmentalists such as Mahi Siderido, who is a climate change policy officer for Greenpeace International in Brussels, argue the proposals don't go far enough.

"We welcome the package as a whole, as the implementation of climate and energy commitments until 2020. But we do think its ambition has to be up considerably for it to have the impact it should have; for it to match the climate challenge that we're faced with," Siderido said.

The EU plan includes toughening its emissions trading program, already the world's largest.

All of this comes at a cost. Barroso estimates the price tag to implement the climate change program at around $86.6 billion. Other estimates are higher.

But the EU claims much of the costs can be recouped through reductions in energy imports. The cost of doing nothing, the EU argues, would be far higher.

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