By Kate Abnett and Bart H. Meijer

European Union countries agreed on Monday to raise their target to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement next year, as the bloc attempts to rally ambition among major emitters ahead of this year’s UN climate talks.

EU countries’ climate ministers on Monday approved their joint negotiating position for the United Nations summit in November, which was supposed to serve as a deadline for nearly 200 countries to hike their climate pledges.

Most countries have not submitted new targets. The 27-country EU, the world’s third-biggest polluter, pledged on Monday to upgrade its target “as soon as possible”, but said this could not be done until the bloc finishes negotiating a dozen new emissions-cutting laws.

EU countries agreed to wrap up those negotiations by the end of this year – a tight deadline for the dozen laws, which include a ban on new fossil fuel car sales by 2035 and an overhaul of the EU carbon market.

EU officials told Reuters the bloc was racing to clinch deals on three policies in time for the COP27 summit on Nov. 7.

The EU’s current target is to cut its net emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, from 1990 levels. EU officials hope it will be possible to nudge that goal higher, because the package of climate policies was designed in July 2021 to deliver the 55 per cent emissions target – and parts of it have since been made more ambitious.

For example, in May, Brussels hiked proposed EU targets to expand renewable energy and increase energy savings, to attempt to end countries’ reliance on Russian fuels following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ministers also agreed on Monday that the EU would support putting “loss and damage” – the contentious topic of compensation for the damage floods, rising seas and other climate change-fuelled impacts are inflicting on the world’s poorest – on the agenda for the COP27 gathering in Egypt.

That could represent a breakthrough, since even getting the issue onto the summit agenda has proved contentious. The EU and United States are facing pressure from developing nations to soften their long-standing resistance to such compensation.

EU countries remained vague, however, on what loss and damage talks at the summit should ultimately deliver.

Developing countries say COP27 must establish a fund to support countries struck by climate impacts like the floods in Pakistan this year that killed nearly 1,700 people.