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Can Europe cut carbon without cutting growth?

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"It's insufficient," says Stephan Singer of the WWF environmental group. "Europe was in favor at Bali of the declaration that in the future developed countries should cut by 25-40 percent," he says. "Now the ink of Bali is not even dry and they come out with a proposal for 20 percent."

"The key thing is for targets to be delivered on," said Antony Froggatt, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank, noting that emissions are actually rising in some EU countries. "Unless we reverse this trend, the rest of the world will say 'good policy but you're not delivering on it.' "

"It's a pretty important, concrete package with some pretty tough demands," says Tom Burke, founding director of the sustainable development organization E3G. "The clear message from this is the seriousness of the EU's intent to do something about climate change."

"The reason Europe is doing this is that there is a really deep understanding of how important it is to the security and prosperity of ... Europeans," he says. Other countries, he added, may face different economic circumstances, "but they all face the same problem of climate change."

The overall impact on the average European consumer will be palpable, but not punitive. Electricity prices are expected to rise as much as 15 percent, while travelers could pay an extra ยค40 for a long-haul flight, and a premium for gasoline, which will have to contain a 10-percent biofuel contingency by 2020.

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