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Steam rises from the cooling towers at Sellafield nuclear plant behind the village of Seascale in North England, September 2002. - 


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: European leaders are poised to reach an historic pact on climate change over the next two days. The European Commission wants a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2020. But as Marketplace Sustainability reporter Sarah Gardner tells us, a fight over how to get there could undermine Europe's leadership on global warming.

SARAH GARDNER: The sticking point is over setting a mandatory target for use of renewable energy like solar and wind.

Countries like France and Finland insist that should include nuclear, a controversial choice in Europe. Other poorer countries that rely on cheap coal worry they can't afford expensive renewables.

If the E.U. can't even agree on renewable targets, critics complain, how can it persuade other countries to join them?

John Coequyt of Greenpeace, however, says Europe's detractors miss the big picture.

JOHN COEQUYT: People can take potshots at whether the E.U. has done a good job of meeting the targets they've set so far but the fact of the matter is they're talking about very aggressive reductions in the very near future while the U.S. emissions continue to go up.

Europe's main business lobby is calling the climate change plan a "step into the unknown," noting the impacts on the economy are uncertain.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner