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EU to offer billions to help poorer member states cut emissions

By Samuel Petrequin and Raf Casert, Associated Press

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen wants to put up 100 billion euros (£85 billion) to help member countries that still heavily rely on fossil fuels shift to lower emissions.

Ms von der Leyen, who took office this month at the helm of the European Union's powerful executive arm, has made the fight against climate change the top priority of her five-year mandate.

The first woman to lead the commission has pledged to make Europe the world's first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 as part of a European Green Deal.

A draft of the resolutions that EU leaders will pursue on climate change when they meet on Thursday, obtained by the Associated Press, says the 100 billion euro investment will serve as "support for regions and sectors most affected by the transition".

The commission hopes the fund will help the regions that stand to be hit the hardest financially by the transition to cleaner industries.

Among them, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland have yet to commit to the EU's goal of net zero emissions of CO2 by 2050, which will be discussed on Thursday during a meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.

The new fund, with full details to be unveiled in January, might help convince leaders from the three countries to join that goal.

"I want us to agree on the commitment for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050," said Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, in his invitation letter to the EU leaders that make up the group.

"This would be a major signal from the European Council that the EU will take a global leadership role on this crucial issue."

He said the move to a lower-emissions economy will create opportunities for economic growth, but that the EU needs to recognise the shift could be more disruptive for certain countries.

Ms von der Leyen, who will present a European Climate Law in March, wants the 28-country bloc to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, more than the currently agreed goals of 40%.

If possible, she would like to increase the EU's target for 2030 as high as 55% in a way that would not hurt the economy.

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