PARIS French President Francois Hollande on Friday called for deeper cuts in European Union carbon dioxide emissions as he sought to put the environment back at the top of the international agenda.
Hollande recommended a 40 percent cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and a 60 percent reduction by 2040 at the European Union level, well beyond the 20 percent target set for 2020.
"We have an ambitious strategy," Hollande told an environment conference in Paris, adding he would defend those targets at the European Union level.
The EU's current target is to cut emissions by 20 pct below 1990 levels by 2020.
It has said it would consider moving to a 30 percent cut by 2020 if other rich economies followed suit with a similar level of ambition, but that is looking increasingly unlikely due to economic constraints caused by the euro zone crisis and opposition from some EU member states.
Hollande also said Europe would reiterate its 20 percent cut target at the next round of U.N. climate talks in Doha in November.
CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 31.6 billion metric tons, spurred by increases from China, according to estimates from the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
Based on current and predicted future emissions growth, scientists have warned the world is on a dangerous track to devastating climate change as the world heats up from man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
At United Nations' climate talks last year, almost 200 nations agreed to sign a new, legally binding deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and for it to come into force by 2020.
The current emissions-cutting pact, the Kyoto Protocol, expires at the end of this year. Under the deal, almost 40 industrialized countries agreed to collectively reduce their emissions by 5.2 percent over 2008-12 from 1990 levels.
On Friday, Hollande reaffirmed France's commitment to getting a new global climate deal signed by 2015, adding that France would be happy to host the 2015 U.N. conference.
The two-day environmental conference in Paris marked the launch of a review of the world's most nuclear-dependent country's energy policy, with a focus on the small and struggling renewable sector.
Hollande said he intended to push for more global dialogue on environmental issues during his five-year presidency, saying a lack of progress in meeting climate goals made this urgent.
On nuclear power, Hollande said he wanted to close France's oldest plant, Fessenheim, at the end of 2016, bringing the closure date forward by several months.
Green groups last week called for an early closure of the plant, which was initially set for 2017, after a steam leak triggered a brief fire alert at Fessenheim, in eastern France, and following another safety alert earlier in the year.
The 34-year old nuclear power plant, located close to the border with Germany, is unpopular due to its age and location in an earthquake zone.
Hollande also confirmed his campaign pledge to cut the share of nuclear power in the country's energy mix to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent at present.
New tenders for solar and offshore wind power will also be launched before the end of 2012, he said.
Renewable energy makes up 13 percent of France's energy mix, well below the 23-percent target set by former president Nicolas Sarkozy for 2020. Wind power lags neighbors like Germany and Spain with only 2 percent of electricity coming from it while solar power makes up less than 0.5 percent.
(Additional reporting by Marion Douet and Vicky Buffery; Editing by Nina Chestney and Alison Birrane)
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