BRUSSELS, March 14 - The European Union should deepen cuts to greenhouse gases beyond the current 20 percent target by the end of this decade, according to environment ministers from seven EU countries including Britain and Germany.
Such cuts would not only help protect the climate but would also shelter Europe from future spikes in the price of oil, said a joint statement from the ministers, also including those from Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Greece.
The statement comes ahead of a meeting of the EU's 27 environment ministers in Brussels on Monday, and one week after EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard laid out a strategy showing a low-cost route to 25 percent emissions cuts in 2020.
"The Commission's roadmap demonstrates... that we already have the tools and policies to cut emissions by 25 percent domestically," said the ministers' statement.
"The case to move to a 30 percent target by 2020 is now stronger as a result," they added.
Europe is deeply divided over the wisdom of deepening emissions cuts amid the current economic crisis, with some big industries, such as steel, fearing the added costs will push them out of business.
Other industries say that continued reliance on costly imports of fossil fuel is a bigger threat to the economy.
"It will increase the continent's resilience against oil price spikes and reduce its dependence on imported energy," said the ministers' statement. "And it will help Europe compete with emerging economies in the fast-growing markets for green goods and services."
It was not immediately clear, however, whether the statement had full government backing in countries, such as Germany, where not all government departments see eye-to-eye on the issue.
(Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Louise Heavens)