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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Agrees on Major Climate Change Plan

BRUSSELS -- Seizing the initiative on global warming, EU leaders agreed to fight climate change with more windmills, solar panels and efficient light bulbs, pledging that one-fifth of the bloc's energy would come from green power by 2020.

Even if the measures force changes in lifestyle, business and the economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged the rest of the world to follow suit, saying there still was time to "avoid what could well be a human calamity" caused by an overheated planet.

The 27 European Union countries remained divided Friday, however, over the role of nuclear energy -- a technology that creates little carbon dioxide but a lot of radioactive waste.

At French insistence, the summit agreement mentioned the role that atomic energy could play in replacing coal- or oil-fired power plants blamed for pumping out greenhouse gases.

European leaders said the agreement, the first to go beyond the 35-nation Kyoto Protocol in its targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, marked a turning point in the fight against global warming.

"We assume leadership with this unilateral reduction," French President Jacques Chirac said, adding: "This is part of the great moments of European history."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed: "It gives Europe a clear leadership position on this crucial issue facing the world."

The EU said it could go even further than its biggest promise of all: Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels. The EU said it could go to 30 percent if other countries join.

Climate change leapfrogged onto the EU's political agenda following a record mild winter and the success of Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

With Friday's commitments -- even though there is not yet an enforcement mechanism -- the EU now wants to lure other leading polluters, such as the United States, Russia, China and India, to agree on deep emissions cuts as well.

Merkel, who holds both the presidency of the EU and the Group of Eight, will present the plans to U.S. President George W. Bush and other G8 leaders at a summit in June.

Even though the EU still has to decide how to divvy up the burdens of switching to more renewable energy sources, European leaders were already claiming victory.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the deal "the most ambitious package ever agreed by any institution on energy security and climate change."

If the EU countries fail to carry their weight, the bloc's executive arm should be able to initiate legal action at the EU's high court, which could lead to the imposition of heavy fines on countries that violate the targets.