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Can Europe cut carbon without cutting growth?

Radical goals for 2020 boost renewable energy and cut emissions sharply.

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Europe unveiled a "road map" to a low-carbon future Wednesday – one of the most radical packages the European Union has ever produced – in an effort to position the bloc at the vanguard of global efforts on climate change.

A clump of legislative proposals and directives provided for steep increases in wind and solar power, improved energy efficiency, and higher costs for polluters to meet a challenge outlined last year and dubbed "triple 20."

The aim is to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent, boost renewable energy to 20 percent of supply, and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent – all by 2020.

The broader aspiration is to show the world that jobs and growth are not dependent on carbon. The challenge to the likes of China, India, and the United States is to join the effort, in which case the EU would raise its emissions-reduction target to 30 percent by 2020.

But there was skepticism and disappointment in equal measure. Industrial leaders warned that slapping a high cost on carbon would make Europe less competitive compared with countries that do not face such constraints. Green advocates expressed disappointment that the measures did not go far enough, particularly in light of commitments made at global talks in Bali last month.


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