MUCH of the two-day EU meeting in Brussels this week was taken up with haggling over Brexit, but on the second day, leaders addressed a number of other issues, including the EU’s ties with China, industrial policy and global warming.

EU27 leaders pushed back a decision on the bloc’s long-term efforts to fight climate change, with some countries opposing a pledge to end most emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. They agreed to discuss the issue again at their next gathering in June, ahead of a UN summit on climate change in the autumn.

The delay frustrated environmental campaigners who argue that the EU should lead global efforts to meet the 2015 Paris accord’s most ambitious target of limiting global warming to 1.5C by the end of the century.

“European governments are kicking the can down the road on climate change,” said Sebastian Mang, a policy adviser with Greenpeace.

He cited warnings from scientists that sharp cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are needed in the coming decades to prevent potentially catastrophic levels of warming by the end of the century.

“Young people get this,” he said, referring to recent rallies in hundreds of cities around the world that drew hundreds of thousands of students calling for leaders to tackle climate change.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who two years ago launched the “One Planet Summit” aimed at speeding up the implementation of the Paris Agreement, said the bloc’s efforts at fighting climate change “were eminently insufficient”.

“Today, we are not giving a clear answer to the commitments we made in Paris in 2015, to the scientific challenges pointed out by the best experts, and to the legitimate impatience that youngsters are expressing in demonstrations every week in our capitals,” he said. “We will need to wake up, but we have not really seen that yet.”

Some countries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, had proposed that leaders agree “an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 striving for climate neutrality by 2050”, in line with the Paris accord’s climate warming goal.

Climate neutrality would require countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the level that can be absorbed again and is sometimes referred to as “net zero”.

But Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic were among those EU nations reluctant to explicitly cite the year 2050 for curbing emissions, according to position papers.

The European Parliament recently voted in favour of raising the targeted emissions cuts to 55% by 2030, but leaders of the bloc’s 28 members have so far refrained from following suit.

In a statement on Thursday, marking 25 years since the creation of the UN climate office, its head Patricia Espinosa said that despite progress in tackling global warming, countries are still falling short of doing what is necessary.

“We have the Paris Agreement, and we have the guidelines strengthening that agreement,” she said. “What we need now are results.”

In Norway, which is not an EU member but co-operates closely with the bloc, local media said at least 36,000 people across the country took part in climate protests yesterday. Oslo city council expressed its support for approximately 10,000 young people who gathered outside the Norwegian parliament.