Brussels, Jan 11: The European Commission presented "the most ambitious policy ever" to fight climate change on Wednesday, challenging the world to follow Europe's lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Union's executive branch proposed the 27-nation bloc reduce emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, with the possibility of going to 30 percent if other developed countries join in.
The targets are part of new proposals for a broad EU energy policy that aims to boost production of renewable fuels, cut energy consumption, and reduce the dominance of big utility companies over EU gas and electricity markets.
With oil imports hit by the latest dispute involving Russia, the Commission's vision for an EU-wide energy policy also seeks to ease dependence on foreign suppliers and push the bloc to speak with one voice on the world stage.
But Brussels made fighting global warming the core of its strategy.
"If this was adopted it would be by far the most ambitious policy ever -- not only in Europe but the world -- against climate change," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.
The plan needs to be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament.
The new goal goes beyond an existing target for an eight percent cut in emissions from 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period adopted by the 15 members of the EU before its 2004 enlargement, which several countries are struggling to meet.
The EU renewed its calls on the United States -- the world's biggest polluter -- and other major economies to drop their opposition to binding targets for emissions cuts.
"We need the United States with us," said Barroso, who met President Bush this week. "I personally believe the United States will change and they will be much more ambitious in the future when it comes to climate change."
Germany, holder of the bloc's rotating presidency, said the policy showed the EU's leadership on climate change, but Britain reiterated its preference for an EU target of 30 percent.
"I think it is ambitious but realistic," said Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency in Paris.
United Nations officials said the EU move may spur stalled international talks on fighting global warming.