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European Union leaders reach an agreement on Climate change. 

The plan, agreed at a Brussels summit, sets out how 27 member-countries will cut carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the summit chairman, said something "quite historic" had happened in Brussels. But critics said concessions made to some nations and sectors would lessen the package's long-term impact.

Scientists say carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut by 25-40% by 2020 for there to be a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. In other developments: • EU leaders agreed an economic recovery package worth 200bn euros (£180bn) to ease the economic downturn• A deal was reached on concessions enabling the Irish Republic to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to streamline EU decision-making

'Credibility test'

EU leaders have been discussing the so-called "20/20/20" package to tackle climate change and concessions to limit its impact on struggling industries. The measures, which also require approval by the European Parliament to become law, commit the EU to cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20% by 2020. It must also raise renewable sources to 20% of total energy use and achieve a 20% cut in energy use.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the plans "the most ambitious proposals anywhere in the world". "Europe has today passed its credibility test. We mean business when we talk about climate," he said, appealing to US President-elect Barack Obama to follow Europe's lead. But critics said the package - which includes concessions to heavy industry and Eastern European countries worried that pollution cuts will harm their economic growth - did not go far enough. "This is a flagship EU policy with no captain, a mutinous crew and several gaping holes in it," said Sanjeev Kumar of WWF.

'Act of leadership'

At the same time, a UN climate conference has been taking place in Poznan, Poland, where former US presidential candidate John Kerry said the United States was set to lead the world towards a new climate deal. Mr Kerry, who is representing Mr Obama, described the EU deal as "an enormous act of leadership" that would have an impact on talks about a future global pact.

If the rest of the world agrees to a new UN climate deal next year, the EU says it is prepared to go further, cutting emissions by 30%. That EU leaders have agreed they can meet the promised 20% target is good, says the BBC's environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, because without it there would be no global deal. But the concessions that the EU has made to industries because of the recession will make it very, very difficult to achieve the 30% figure that scientists say is really needed.  

 
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