Hedegaard said she is working with her colleagues in the European Commission's energy and transport departments to define climate targets for 2030.
The targets would be included in a 2050 roadmap for a low-carbon economy, which the Commission will set out in spring 2011, the commissioner told business leaders at the European Policy Centre (EPC) yesterday (14 September).
The EU currently has an objective of slashing greenhouse-gas emissions and boosting renewable energies by 20% by 2020.
But the issue of emissions reduction and renewable energy targets are likely to reopen a Pandora's box that could require tough negotiations among reluctant EU member states.
Agreeing on a package of legislation to meet the EU's 2020 targets was a matter of fierce internal argument among EU countries until a compromise was finally struck in December 2008 (EurActiv 12/12/08). The Parliament sealed the deal with only mixed enthusiasm (EurActiv 18/12/08).
Targets necessary for Europe's technology lead
Hedegaard argued that targets are in Europe's own interest as they have been proven to bring results that give the bloc a head-start on the global clean technology market.
Nevertheless, she stressed that Europe would not sign up to commitments unconditionally. A unilateral commitment would take away the pressure on the US and China, leading global emitters to commit to reducing their emissions, she said.
The commissioner said progress in the upcoming high-level negotiations in Cancún "looks very difficult" after the last round of talks in August.
"Nothing new came out of Washington. Nothing new has come out of Beijing," she said, adding that the EU will not unconditionally sign up to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
Hedegaard chided China for sending an under-secretary from the local embassy to represent the country in the Geneva climate finance meeting earlier this month (EurActiv 06/09/10). "That was not a good sign," she said.
However, the climate commissioner warned that while China is dragging its feet in the negotiations, it is moving on the ground. Three Chinese wind turbine manufacturers have risen to the global top 10 in just ten years and the country now holds half of the global solar market, she pointed out.
"We should take care not to be too complacent," Hedegaard cautioned. She sought to downplay the debate raging in Brussels around the potential loss of competitiveness European companies could suffer as a result of tougher CO2 reduction policies.
"I think carbon leakage is not a one-way street. We can also lose jobs by not being innovative," she said.