Germany, France and Britain have pressed the European Union for more ambitious greenhouse gas targets at a meeting of environment ministers, clashing with the EU executive and several eastern and central European states.
The big states led criticism of a draft text that said the bloc does not need to revise up its targets until the next decade as it tries to decide how to share out the burden of meeting those among its 28 member countries.
Germany’s Jochen Flasbarth called the European Commission text “weak on the 2030 objectives”.
In a split council, ministers from France, Britain, Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Sweden joined him in calling for the EU to set an example with stronger targets.
However, Poland, whose economy relies on coal, and other former Soviet states said the EU should not ramp up its climate goals too soon or ahead of other nations.
Although EU policy has been set on the basis of a two degree Celsius limit on global warming, the UN sponsored climate agreement reached in Paris late last year said planet-warming needed to be capped well below that to prevent the worst effects.
Known as the Paris Agreement it has set an aspirational goal of 1.5°C.
French environment minister Segolene Royal renewed a call for Europe to lead on emissions reductions: “We went from 2.0°C to 1.5°C, so Europe must maintain the initiative.”
Reuters reports t debate was welcomed by environmental campaigners, who have hailed the wording of the EU targets as “at least” a promise for Europe to do more after other countries signed up to the UN accord.
“There is a wide gap between our current climate action plans and what needs to be done to avoid a climate disaster,” Wendel Trio, head of Climate Action Network Europe, said.
EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told the dissenting ministers they were “welcome to be more ambitious” but warned that not all member states were on board for new European targets.