European Union leaders agreed to stick to groundbreaking climate change targets and to a $258 billion economic stimulus plan for the region as they wrapped up a two-day summit in Brussels Friday.
They offered a unified front on two key issues that have divided the 27-member bloc, ambitious climate change targets and a region-wide plan to deal with the economic downturn.
On the climate issue, the leaders agreed to maintain the goal of cutting heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020 - and to produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind by the same date. While maintaining the pollution cutting goals, the leaders did offer concessions to more polluting eastern European members and to heavy industry.
Still President Nicolas Sarkozy of France - the current EU president until the year's end - hailed the agreement as historic.
Mr. Sarkozy said there is not a single continent that has greenhouse-gas-cutting rules as strict as what the EU adopted unanimously on Friday. And he said the economic crisis should not be an excuse from shirking those targets but should rather be an incentive to change economies to emphasize sustainable development and to modify Europe's energy sources.
The climate change plan may help energize the climate change talks that have been going on in Poland.
EU leaders also overcame misgivings on the part of some members by pushing through the $258 billion economic stimulus package the bloc's executive arm has proposed.
"I hope that people do appreciate that Europe is united today - every country agreeing on what is a very substantial fiscal injection that adds to the benefit that comes from cuts in interest rates a nd that it will indeed give people more confidence around the world that where markets are in difficulty world leaders can reach agreement to take the action that is necessary," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "That's why its such a significant step today."
Still, it's unclear just how much of this funding is actually new money or will come from previously identified sources.
In a separate development, Ireland has also agreed to hold a new referendum on the Lisbon Treaty aimed to reform and streamline the EU Irish voters rejected the charter this year.