German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Europe to take the lead in tackling global warming.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is to chair the EU summit for the first time
She spoke ahead of a European Union summit at which EU leaders are expected to commit to cutting carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.
Ms Merkel told the UK's Financial Times paper that the deal would be the first of several potentially painful steps that the 27 EU members must take.
The need to negotiate a post-Kyoto deal had "concentrated minds", she said.
Ms Merkel will chair the EU summit - taking place on Thursday and Friday in Brussels - for the first time, as Germany holds the rotating EU presidency.
She said the fight against climate change was a top priority and that an agreement on reducing carbon emissions would be an important first step.
It is hoped EU leaders will agree to a deeper cut of 30% in emissions by 2020 if other developed and emerging nations, notably India and China, join in.
"It won't be easy, but that's why the EU should make commitments now and take this pioneering position," Ms Merkel told the FT.
"The necessity to combat climate change and to reduce our energy dependency, coupled with the fact Kyoto is running out, have concentrated minds."
Negotiations on cutting CO2 emissions are expected to be lengthy
The Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions is due to expire in 2012.
Months and years of EU negotiations are expected as European nations haggle over their respective commitments.
Proposals to introduce a binding target of 20% for the use of renewable energy sources are opposed by several European nations, including France and Poland.
Member states are also deeply divided over the role of nuclear energy in reducing carbon emissions.
And last month, Germany said it would oppose EU plans to cut CO2 emissions from vehicles if any proposal were made to penalise makers of big cars.
Ms Merkel has acknowledged that finding agreements on climate change will take time. "Of course a post-Kyoto agreement will not come this year," she told the FT.
"Early negotiations are helpful but we will need one or two years at least."
The German chancellor has said she plans to make climate change a priority at the G8 summit of industrialised nations to be held in Germany in June.