EU fails to agree on plan for carbon neutral economy by 2050

Officials say 24 countries supported the initiative but were held back by Poland and other nations that rely on fossil-fuel economies

A view of the cooling towers of the Drax coal-fired power station near Selby, northern England on September 25, 2015. Energy company Drax has abandoned a 1 billion GBP installation of carbon capture technology to cut emissions, citing  the UK government's reduction of subsidies for renewable energy. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)
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EU leaders have failed to back a plan to make the bloc's economy carbon neutral by 2050 in spite of promises to fight harder against climate change.

Before a UN meeting in the autumn, the proposal was relegated to a non-binding footnote in the final statement of Thursday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

"For a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050," the footnote read. 
But for the change in approach to become an official target, all 28 EU countries must back the change.

Officials said 24 countries including Britain, France and Germany supported the initiative, but were held back by Poland and other nations that rely heavily on fossil-fuel economies.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the leaders wasted the chance to agree on a deal and called on the EU to organise an emergency meeting before the summit in New York in September.

"This is a black day for climate protection in Europe," Greenpeace spokesman Stefan Krug said. "A small number of Eastern European countries prevented Europe's impasse on climate protection from being broken.

"The climate strikes by tens of thousands of students and the election choices of millions of Europeans for more climate protection were ignored."

The protests are part of the "Fridays for Future" rallies that have been held regularly across Europe for almost a year, urging political leaders to act more decisively against global warming.

Mr Krug said that after failing to set a concrete target for 2050, the bloc's old goal for 2030 remains in place even though it was agreed on before the Paris climate accord four years ago.

EU officials said there still was time to change the eastern nations' minds.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who two years ago launched the "One Planet Summit" aimed at speeding up the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, pledged to continue the fight within the EU and at the next G20 summit.