EU agrees on landmark climate change deal for 2030

BRUSSELS (AFP) - European Union leaders agreed on what they called the world's most ambitious climate change targets for 2030, paving the way for a new UN-backed global treaty next year.

The 28 leaders overcame deep divisions at a summit in Brussels to reach a deal including a headline commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent 16 years from now, EU head Herman Van Rompuy said.

They also agreed on 27 per cent targets for renewable energy supply and efficiency gains, in spite of reservations from some member states about the cost of the measures.

"Deal! At least 40 per cent emissions cut by 2030. World's most ambitious, cost-effective, fair EU 2030 climate energy policy agreed," Van Rompuy tweeted.

The EU wanted to agree on the targets ahead of a summit in Paris in November and December 2015, where it is hoped the world will agree to a new phase of the Kyoto climate accords which run until 2020.

The agreement puts the EU "in the driving seat" ahead of the Paris conference, Euroopean Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Leaders had been cautious about the prospect of a deal before haggling late into the night on the details.

- Split in the EU -

The negotiations saw a split between richer, greener nations and poorer countries that depend heavily on fossil fuels or on gas from Russia. Poland had previously threatened to veto a deal, fearing that its near complete reliance on coal would have made it prohibitively expensive to meet the targets.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande had talks with Polish premier Eva Kovacsz on the sidelines of the summit in a bid to talk her round. The accord also promotes new interconnection links between memher states allowing them to export up to 15 per cent of their power output when they are in suplus and import up to 15 per cent when they are in deficit.

Van Rompuy said these interconnection links were a key part of developing the EU's energy market and would provide insurance against supply disruption. The talks went down to the wire, with no draft proposals for the summit on the table just hours before the leaders arrived, despite months of negotiations.

The main part of the climate deal involves an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global warming, by 40 per cent compared with 1990 levels. The agreement kept the 27 per cent target for renewable energy such as solar and wind power but the 30 per cent goal for an increase in energy efficiency set in July by the Commission was watered down to 27 per cent.

The climate wrangle comes amid EU concerns over its reliance on natural gas supplies from Russia, with the crisis in Ukraine hitting relations with Moscow. Van Rompuy cited both the Ukraine crisis and turmoil in the Middle East as good reason for the EU to act now to bolster its energy security.

British-based humanitarian group Oxfam said the EU targets were too timid and reflect the influence of energy lobbyists. It called for targets of 55 per cent in emissions cuts, 40 per cent for energy savings and 45 per cent for renewables.

- Ebola czar -

The EU meanwhile named Christos Stylianides of Cyprus as the bloc's coordinator to fight the Ebola disease which has claimed nearly 4,900 lives in west Africa. Stylianides is the incoming EU commissioner for humanitarian aid. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that other EU nations "need to do more" than the nearly 600 million euros (S$968 million) they have currently pledged to fight the virus.

The leaders were set to discuss the Ukraine crisis although any progress is unlikely as an EU review on the ceasefire between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels is not due until next Tuesday.

They will search for ways on Friday to foster economic growth and jobs amid fears of a triple-dip recession.