The European Union unveiled a road-map to a low-carbon future today. It effectively positions the bloc at the vanguard of global efforts on climate change.

The aim is to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent, boost renewable energy – including steep increases in solar and wind power generation – to 20 percent of supply, and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent – all by 2020. (It’s being called “Triple-20”). Part of the new plan is to fortify Europe’s existing cap-and-trade system with more auctioned permits (giveaways in the original scheme led to windfall profits for polluters and minimal emissions reductions).

The broader objective is to demonstrate to the world that jobs and growth are not dependent on carbon.

Europe is leading on this too: Acknowledging that the longer-term benefits of a low-carbon economy would be enormous.

As EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso put it, “Europe can be the first economy for the low-carbon age. There is a cost, but it is manageable. To the European Parliament, which will vote on the plans shortly, he made the brilliant point that “every day the price of oil and gas goes up, the real cost of the package falls.”