Europe's industry is facing tough emissions rules. Credit: J. L. STANFIELD/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/GETTY IMAGES

Europe's ambitious climate plan was approved last week by the European Parliament's environment committee. But a group of eastern European countries, led by Poland, threaten to block reforms to the emissions-trading system, saying that these would harm their economies.

The package of market-based and regulatory measures is intended to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions across the European Union by 20% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2020 (see _Nature_ 451, 504–505; 2008). The target will be increased to 30% when a new international climate-change agreement is reached.

The committee backed a number of contested changes. From 2013, the power sector will have to acquire all of its emissions allowances at auction, instead of getting them for free. Large manufacturing industries that compete internationally will be gradually phased out of free allowances from 2013 to 2020 — but the threshold for exemption will be raised from 10,000 to 25,000 tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions.

In response to complaints from some countries, the committee proposed that some industries will still be eligible for 100% free allowances. But the exempt sectors will only be identified after the international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.