Europe should commit to a tough new target to halve emissions by 2030, Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has said.
The Lib Dem Cabinet minister said the goal was ambitious but achievable as the Government set out its position ahead of efforts to secure a new international deal in 2015 on tackling global warming.
But the UK will oppose a European Union wide renewable energy target because it is "inflexible and unnecessary," he added.
Davey wants Brussels to set an emissions reduction target of 50% on 1990 levels by 2030 within an international deal, or go it alone with a 40% goal if an agreement cannot be struck.
"The UK is a global leader in tackling climate change and we need to maintain the momentum towards a binding global climate agreement in 2015," he said.
"That is why we will argue for an EU wide binding emissions reductions target of 50% by 2030 in the context of an ambitious global climate deal and even a unilateral EU 40% target without a global deal. This 2030 target is ambitious, but it is achievable and necessary if we are to limit climate change to manageable proportions.
"We will need significant levels of renewable energy and other low carbon technologies to meet such an ambitious 2030 EU emissions target. The UK is committed to increasing renewables in our own domestic energy mix.
"The tripling of support available to low carbon electricity through the £7.6bn Levy Control Framework provides an immediate boost. And the radical reforms to the electricity market set out in the Energy Bill will incentivise renewables to 2020 and beyond, building the low-carbon economy we need to compete in the green global race.
"But we want to maintain flexibility for member states in how they meet this ambitious emissions target. There are a variety of options to decarbonise any country's economy.
"In the UK, our approach is technology neutral and our reforms will rely on the market and competition to determine the low carbon electricity mix. We will therefore oppose a renewable energy target at an EU level as inflexible and unnecessary."
Ruth Davis, Greenpeace UK political adviser, said: 'In pushing for a 50% European carbon cut by 2030, Ed Davey and the Prime Minister have secured a rare outbreak of Cabinet common sense on climate policy.
"As China forges ahead with new anti-pollution measures, a credible 2030 target is not just essential to build support for a global climate deal in 2015, but also to ensure Europe can compete in the rapidly expanding global market for green goods and services.
"This makes the Government's opposition to a renewables target even more perverse, however.
"The UK has some of the best renewable energy resources in Europe, and a renewables industry with huge potential for growth.
"An EU target would create a new market for that industry, and in doing so attract vital investment into our economy.
"In opposing a renewables target, not for the first time the irrational prejudices of the Tory right seem to have trumped the interests of working people in Britain."
“This announcement by Government is welcome in that it helps bring much needed clarity to European negotiations on a future climate and energy package," said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. "It will also help provide vital momentum to international efforts to agree a global deal on climate change in 2015.
“However, the EU and its key member states should be clear that any serious attempt by the EU to play its part in preventing dangerous levels of climate change requires at least a 50% cut in its emissions by 2030.”
Reacting to the UK Government’s position to oppose a future EU renewable energy target, David Nussbaum said: “Despite the UK’s position, the EU should not dismiss the cost reduction and economic growth benefits that a renewables target for 2030 could bring to the EU.
“By providing greater certainty to investors in the EU’s renewables sector, a future renewables target could help reduce the costs of financing renewable energy projects in the EU and consolidate its position as an industrial leader in several new renewable energy technologies.”