The EU on Friday unveiled its stance on the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, recommitting to its own greenhouse gas cuts for 2030 and urging the world to reduce emissions to zero by the end of the century.
"With this solid position, the EU will be a deal maker in Paris, and not just a deal taker," EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told a press conference, despite criticism from environmental groups that Brussels has not gone far enough ahead of the UN climate talks at the end of the year.
Spain\’s Canete said the 28 European Union environment ministers meeting in Brussels agreed that the planned UN accord should incorporate five-yearly reviews to ratchet up efforts to fight climate change.
The EU will push for emissions to peak by 2020 at the latest, to be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to the 1990 baseline, and "near zero or below by 2100," he added.
Net zero emissions means that emissions can continue, but they must be balanced by steps such as planting trees or using negative emissions technological solutions to draw carbon from the air.
Canete said the EU goals were consistent with those of the UN which seeks to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, which scientists see as key to avoiding catastrophic drought, floods and sea level rises.
"We stand ready to conclude an ambitious, vast and binding global climate deal and we will settle for nothing less," Canete added.
The ministers also supported calls from poor and developing nations, among the most threatened by global warming, which are insisting rich counterparts show how they intend to meet a promise made in 2009 of $100 billion (90 billion euros) in climate finance annually from 2020.
The ministers agreed to push for measures to make sure governments match words with deeds, making the case for transparency and accountability.
"It\’s a mandate that is ambitious, creative, concrete and very forward-looking," French environment minister Segolene Royal said, adding it will help make the summit a success.
But the EU is pushing for a "legally binding agreement," which may set up a clash with the US and other countries, EU officials say.
In October last year, EU leaders agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and push for 27 percent targets for renewable energy supply and efficiency gains.
By comparison, US President Barack Obama set a target for the United States to cut its overall emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
Environmental groups have their doubts.
"It\’s regrettable that EU environment ministers failed to spell out how the EU intends to increase its own climate and energy targets," said Genevieve Pons Deladriere, director of the WWF European Policy Office.
Greenpeace, which staged a small protest outside the meeting venue, said the EU did not go far enough.
"In Paris, the EU should present a united front to support a long-term global goal to phase out fossil fuels by 2050," said Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Jiri Jerabek.
However, French analyst Carole Mathieu highlighted the importance of EU calls for a five-year review.
"It means the Paris agreement will not only be a register of mid-term commitments but it will also be durable and enable regular enhancements of national emissions," she told AFP.
The UN Paris conference will seek to crown a six-year effort by 195 nations with a post-2020 pact on curbing greenhouse gases.