Several of the biggest energy companies in Europe are lobbying the EU to cut back on carbon emissions by 25 per cent.
Firms including Britain's Scottish & Southern Energy, Denmark's Dong Energy, Dutch firm Eneco, Norway's Statkraft, Italy's Sorgenia and Greece's Public Power have teamed up to support tough measures ahead of the launch of an EU strategy paper.
While the EU has proposed one of the world’s toughest climate commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels over the next decade, some clean technology and service industries want to go even further.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard is expected to highlight energy saving measures in her strategy paper which could put the EU on track for a 25 per cent cut in carbon emissions.
The firms want the EU to commit to a formal unilateral target and in a joint statement they underlined the economic benefits of reducing Europe's dependence on fossil fuels at a time of soaring oil prices which many fear could derail recovery from the global financial crisis.
"As leaders of utility companies, we know that the benefits of early action far outweigh the costs of inertia or delayed action," the statement said.
The EU, which is home to 500 million people, sends about 270 billion euros ($374.9 billion) a year overseas for oil, and 40 billion euros for gas.
The companies also agree with a need to tighten the cap on emissions under the EU's flagship carbon trading scheme, which could involve setting aside around 500 million to 800 million EU carbon permits.
However traditional heavy industries like the European steel sector oppose tougher climate action as they fear this will harm their ability to compete with overseas rivals in less regulated areas.
There is a similar split between European countries with Britain and Spain in favour of deeper cuts, while coal-dependent economies like Poland are opposed to the move.