European leaders aim to agree a new decade of energy policy to cut climate-warming gas emissions out to 2030 at an EU summit on Thursday, though sharp differences over sharing the cost means a deal could elude them.
The 28 member states want to set the pace for a global pact to be hammered out in Paris next year with industrial powers from Asia, North America and the rest of the world.
That pact would aim to improve on two decades of stuttering cooperation and rein in emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for a disruptive rise in temperatures.
There is broad acceptance for an overall EU goal of cutting carbon emissions from homes, power plants, cars, planes, farms and other sources by 40 percent in 2030 compared to the global benchmark year of 1990.
But arguments about helping poorer eastern states or preferring nuclear over wind or solar power may drag the negotiations through the night into Friday, diplomats said.
The plan is to build on an existing set of green policy goals to 2020, which have greatly increased the amount of renewable energy such as the sun and wind used across the European Union and cut overall energy use through measures such as better building insulation and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
At present, EU carbon emissions are nearly 20 percent below 1990 – helped by the collapse of polluting industries in its eastern member states after the communist collapse 25 years ago.
After six years of economic crisis, however, many states say their national budgets will struggle to cover the cost of more ambitious targets. And leaders fret about the reaction of voters to a range of related effects, from a loss of jobs in coalmines to new EU regulations limiting the power of domestic appliances.
Coal-dependent Poland, whose new Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz is attending her first EU summit, fears the political fall-out from policy that could shut mines a year before an election.
Britain’s David Cameron, pushing for minimal restrictions on how to meet the target, wants to keep open nuclear options and fears red tape will fuel Eurosceptic demands to quit the EU.
Portugal and Spain, keen to export energy, are pressing hard for stricter targets that would push France to accept more power connections being built to link Iberia across the Pyrenees.
EU officials still reckon an outline deal can be reached, but only after many hours of debate on providing financial incentives for nations such as Poland without placing too big a burden on richer, less industrial countries such as Denmark.
“There is no agreement yet but I think the differences of opinion have been narrowed down to a couple of outstanding issues that will be settled by the leaders on Thursday night,” one senior official said.