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Emissions, Economy, Ebola on EU Agenda

  • Lisa Bryant

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, center, stands among EU leaders at his first European Union summit in Brussels, Oct. 23, 2014.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, center, stands among EU leaders at his first European Union summit in Brussels, Oct. 23, 2014.

European Union leaders hope to agree on tough cuts for carbon emissions during a two-day summit that ends Friday. The talks in Brussels promise to be difficult - and they are only part of the agenda that includes fighting Ebola and turning around the region's sluggish economy.

The European Union wants to be a leader in the climate change fight before next year's U.N. climate meeting in Paris. The EU executive arm has proposed a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The European Commission also wants a 30 percent cut in energy use by the same date - and for renewable energy to account for 27 percent of the region's overall energy mix.

Heading into the talks Thursday, Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven predicted reaching an agreement on these goals will be difficult.

"But definitely we must make the best effort. Because it is good for the European Union itself, we can combine high environmental standards with growth, jobs, development," Lofven said. "So it is good for the European Union but also for next year's meeting in Paris, where I believe it is very important that the EU is an active player."

The climate change targets will likely face resistance from countries like Poland, which relies heavily on coal, and Britain, which opposes setting binding targets for renewables. Small businesses are also worried about the costs of adopting greener energy.

Meanwhile, Tara Connolly, who monitors EU energy policy for the environmental group Greenpeace, said the EU emissions-cutting and energy goals do not go far enough. She said the EU target of 27 percent for renewable energy sources, for example, would actually slow the current rate of progress being made.

"I am not very optimistic that the outcome we get from the EU leaders' meeting will be the one Europe really needs, or that Europeans really deserve," Connolly said.

Responding to West Africa's Ebola outbreak and addressing Europe's sluggish growth will also be on the summit agenda.

Earlier Thursday, the EU announced another $31 million in aid to find Ebola vaccines and treatments. But European leaders will discuss meeting a bigger goal of creating a $1.26 billion fund to fight the deadly virus.

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