BRUSSELS -- The European Union yesterday announced plans to lower energy consumption, develop renewable sources such as wind power and biofuels, and increase research into cutting carbon emissions from fuels already in use, particularly coal. The ambitious proposals seek to deter growing dependence on oil and gas imports and curb the emissions blamed for climate change.
But the EU left the contentious issue of nuclear power up to each state to decide.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, said Europe must embrace a low-carbon economy and lead the world into a "post-industrial revolution."
Those proposals have taken on new urgency as Europe has seen its oil and gas supplies disrupted by disputes between Russia -- which provides one quarter of its natural gas -- and the nations the supplies pass through on their way to Germany, Poland, and other countries.
"Europe must lead the world into a new . . . post-industrial revolution, the development of a low-carbon economy," Barroso said. "We need new policies to face a new reality," he said.
The package reflects a renewed sense of purpose evident in the EU during the past year, after a period of disarray caused by the rejection of the bloc's proposed constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Climate change is at the center of the new policy, which stresses the need to slash carbon emissions blamed for global warming -- a matter of dispute between Europe and the United States. Barroso said he had talked to President Bush and congressional leaders about the issue.
"We are not speaking about European warming, we are speaking about global warming," he said. "We need the United States with us, they are after all the biggest polluter in the world."
The United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial nations to cut their global-warming gases by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
The Bush administration contends that would slow its economy and the accord should have required cuts by poorer but fast-growing nations, such as China and India.
Environment ministers of the EU's 27 nations will debate the new strategy on Feb. 20, with EU leaders set to vote on the plan at a March summit. "As soon as we have the endorsement, we will act swiftly," Barroso said.
The EU is currently the world's largest importer of oil and gas. It buys 82 percent of its oil and 57 percent of its gas from third-party states. Over the next quarter-century, those figures are projected to rise to 93 percent and 84 percent, respectively.
Russia is a large supplier, but concerns about the reliability of those supplies were underscored this week when shipments of Russian oil via a pipeline running through Belarus were disrupted by a trade dispute between the two former Soviet republics.