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EU Leaders Try to Reach Agreement on Climate Change, Economy


European Union leaders will try to reach agreement on a climate change plan and efforts to tackle the economic slowdown as they meet in Brussels Thursday and Friday.

This is the final summit of European Union leaders for 2008 and differences remain over how to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gasses and how to reignite European economies struggling under the financial and economic crises.

The 27-member bloc is hoping in particular to reach agreement on their climate change plan during the meeting so they can present it at United Nations-led climate change talks that are now underway in Poznan, Poland. The EU plan aims to cut heat-trapping carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and also ensure 20 percent of energy comes from renewable sources by the same date.

But Poland and other EU members from eastern Europe argue they need special subsidies to help their coal-dependent energy systems deal with the change. Germany also wants to shield its heavy industry from the bite of coping with climate change.

On the economic front, EU leaders also face continuing divisions over proposals for a $260 billion economic stimulus package. Germany again counts among the skeptics.

As he arrived for the Brussels summit Thursday afternoon, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France - the EU president until the end of the year - said it was essential European leaders reached an agreement. A united Europe was critical he said, and he would do everything it took to make it happen.

At the climate change talks in Poland, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was essential the EU take leadership on climate change. The decisions European leaders made in Brussels this week, he said, carry great consequences for the entire world.

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