In what can be seen as something of a triumph for the outgoing European Commissioners, notably Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, the European Council (which consists of the 28 heads of state of member countries) has agreed to the goals of the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework proposed by the Commission in January. These include a "binding" 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target for the EU as a whole of 40% relative to 1990, and a "binding" target for renewables for the EU as a whole, requiring them to account for at least 27% of total EU energy consumption by 2030, estimated to amount to about 45% of electricity consumption. In the interests of flexibility and cost-effectiveness – as well as reflecting the increased maturity of renewables technology – binding individual country targets for renewables (as stipulated for 2020 in the current "20-20-20" (20% emissions reduction, 20% renewable energy, 20% increase in energy efficiency) set of policies) have been jettisoned. It now falls to the new Commission to implement the new Framework and convert it into legislation.
European Council says the greenhouse gas reduction target will be "delivered collectively by the EU in the most cost-effective manner possible, with the reductions in the ETS (Emissions Trading System) and non-ETS sectors amounting to 43% and 30% by 2030 compared to 2005, respectively" and "all member states will participate in this effort, balancing considerations of fairness and solidarity."

A "well-functioning, reformed ETS" will be the main instrument to achieve this target, says the Council, with the annual reduction in the cap on maximum permitted emissions to go from 1.74% to 2.2% as from 2021, although measures will be retained after 2020 to prevent the risk of "carbon leakage", ie to support sectors at risk of losing international competitiveness. And member states with a GDP per capita below 60% of the EU average may opt to continue to give free allowances to their energy sectors up to 2030.

The existing NER300 facility will be renewed, providing support for CCS and renewables, with the scope extended to low carbon innovation in industrial sectors and the initial endowment increased to 400 million allowances (NER400).

The European Council also reaffirmed the fundamental importance of a fully functioning and connected internal energy market and stressed that "all efforts must be mobilised to achieve this objective as a matter of urgency" with synchronous operation of member states’ grids remaining a priority.

Commenting on the agreement on the 2030 Framework, reached at the European Council’s 23 October session, outgoing Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, said "It was not easy, not at all, but we managed to reach a fair decision." He noted that the agreement "will allow the European Union to bring a positive message to the international climate negotiations…well in time for the UN conference in Paris next December, which should shape the post-2020 world order."
Outgoing Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, said "The agreement…keeps Europe firmly in the driving seat in the international climate talks…We have set the example and others should follow. Europe accounts for only 11% of global emissions, so we need all others to step up to the plate."