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The European Commission has agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The agreement was announced at a climate change summit in Brussels.

EU president Angela Merkel said Europe would cut its emissions even further, to 30 per cent below 1990 levels, if the bigger global producers of CO2 such as China and India agreed to join the programme. "Europe only produces 15 per cent of global CO2," Merkel said. "The real climate problem will not be solved by Europe alone."

European commission president José Manuel Barroso said the European nations had to take the opportunity to set the standard for the rest of the world.

The other missing piece of the puzzle is renewable sources of energy. Binding targets for how much of Europe's power should come from these sources have yet to be agreed.

Merkel said she thought there was still a chance that an agreement could be reached here, too, adding that Europe had to find a solution for "our grandchildren".

However, the question of nuclear power is proving to be a stumbling block. French president Jacques Chirac is pushing hard for it to be part of the "green" solution.

Merkel argued that nuclear is hardly a "renewable" resource, but did concede that the technology might have to be part of the carbon cutting programme.

Barroso added that he thought breaking up the companies with a too-firm grip on national power supply would also help Europe progress towards its greener goals. He also proposed separation of power generators and distributors, saying that "only with that separation we can create more choice for consumers [and] more attractive conditions for investment". ®

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