Gabriel said the EU was facing a "historic decision" on climate change and all ministers were well aware of the importance of striking a deal, not least because their children were keeping an eye on them.


Global targets


"Those who took the floor said that their daughters asked them exactly what they did when they came to such meetings and did they come home with good results," Gabriel said.


"There will be some countries like Germany who will see a steeper reduction in greenhouse gases"

Sigmar Gabriel, German Environment Minister

"I think that's a pretty good incentive to make sure that we do go home with good results."


He said Germany was prepared to go even further, saying the country's parliament had already backed a 40 per cent cut if the EU set a 30 per cent target.


Gabriel said: "There will be some countries like Germany who will see a steeper reduction in greenhouse gases.


"Other countries, some of them no doubt in Eastern Europe, will have to achieve a lesser reduction in greenhouse gases because of the need to catch up economically."


Stavros Dimas, EU environment commissioner, said EU nations had come a long way.


In March, EU leaders gave only vague directions to environment officials, telling them to look at a cut in global carbon dioxide emissions of between 15 and 30 per cent.


"Not even the word 'target' was there," Dimas said.


Global agreements


EU's Dimas has criticised EU
carbon dioxide accords [EPA]
European countries will try to see if other nations will go further when EU members UK, France, Germany and Italy meet other G-8 nations – the US, Russia, Japan and Canada – on June 6.


They will also seek carbon dioxide cuts from the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.


Only when there is a global agreement can EU nations fix exactly what carbon dioxide cuts each nation can commit to, Gabriel said.


The UN Kyoto protocol on climate change sets 1990 carbon dioxide limits as the starting point.


That won't change for the EU's target as a whole.


But that year poses problems for economies that have grown rapidly in the last two decades, particularly former Soviet bloc countries.


This is mainly because emissions have increased significantly since then.