United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the European Union decision to establish targets for energy efficiency in the battle against global warming.

“In the face of rising greenhouse gas emissions, committing to a substantial decrease for the next decade is ambitious…but ambition and leadership are just what is needed to respond to climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing humankind.”

The EU agreement, made on Friday, that would make Europe the world’s leader in the fight against climate change.

Issuing a challenge to the United States, China and India to match European ambitions in the battle against global warming, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called on the world to follow the European Union’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2020. She said the bloc’s 27 members would commit to a 30 percent reduction if other nations followed suit.

The plan goes beyond the 35-nation Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial nations to reduce the emission of global-warming gases by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Major European Union economies had already committed to do better than that, promising to decrease greenhouse gases by 8 percent in that time.

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