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EU to Put Climate Change at Heart of Energy Policy

The European Union will put climate change at the heart of a broad new energy policy on Wednesday as it moves to boost renewable fuels, cut consumption and curb its dependence on foreign suppliers of oil and gas.

With oil imports hit by the latest energy dispute involving Russia, Brussels will lay out a vision of a common energy policy for the 27-nation bloc with proposals including scaling back the dominance of energy companies and strengthening regulators.

"The world has changed and now it's high time for Europe to have an energy policy to fight climate change, reduce the risk of our external dependency, and increase the competitiveness of the European economy," said Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, a spokesman for Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

This week's dispute between Russia and Belarus, which has hit oil exports to several EU nations, highlighted the bloc's vulnerability to foreign producers of fuel.

The fight against global warming takes top billing in the wide-ranging set of reports which will be debated by EU governments after adoption by the executive body on Wednesday.

The commissioners are expected to endorse a plan that calls on developed nations around the world to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

At the same time, the Commission is set to propose the 27-nation EU set a target to cut its own emissions by 20% in that time period, with the possibility of increasing that goal if the international community agrees to a broader cut.

The EU has repeatedly said the United States - the world's biggest polluter - and other major economies will have to chip in to make the fight against climate change successful.

Environmentalists criticised the Commission for setting an internal target below the one it seeks for the world as a whole.

"We think that this is a political and scientific blunder," said Mahi Sideridou, climate policy director at Greenpeace in Brussels, on Tuesday.

The Commission's proposals set a target for the use of biofuels and a mandatory overall target for how much EU energy consumption should come from renewable sources such as wind.

Officials said the commissioners would deal with the most contentious issues on Wednesday.

The choice of language for recommending a split-up of major power companies like Germany's E.ON generation and distribution businesses was among the ideas on which consensus had not yet been reached, an official said late on Tuesday.

Given German and French opposition to the idea, the Commission is set to recommend the option of utilities handing over management of grid businesses while retaining ownership.

Brussels will also look at strengthening the role of regulators to promote the development of a well-connected internal EU market for electricity and gas.

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