Britain has joined calls for the EU to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by the end of the decade.
Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne backed an argument by ministers in France and Germany presented in the Financial Times.
Unless the EU vowed to make such cuts, it would face huge costs as a result of global warming and volatile energy prices, the ministers warned.
They said was a “tremendous opportunity” to ensure the economic recovery set Europe on a low carbon path which would stimulate financial growth, provide jobs, tackle climate change and improve energy security.
But the current target to cut emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020 is a key barrier to setting the EU on the path to a low-carbon future.
They said the EU would end up in the “global slow lane” if it did not address the issue, falling behind countries such as China, Japan and the US in the race to capitalise on low carbon growth.
The EU agreed its plan to cut emissions by 20% 18 months ago, but said it would increase its target to 30% if other countries showed similar ambition as part of a global climate deal - which last year’s UN talks in Copenhagen failed to deliver.
Huhne, along with German federal environment minister Dr Norbert Rottgen and French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo, said raising the 2020 target to 30% would be a genuine attempt to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees centigrade and avoid dangerous climate change.
Such a move would encourage other countries to take similar steps.
And it would make “good business sense” by sending a strong signal of the EU’s commitment to a low-carbon future and provide greater certainty and predictability to investors.
In the article, which is also published in Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the trio said the 20% target was too low to drive investment in green technology and renewables.