EU leaders on Friday announced they had agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 55% by 2030 after negotiations that lasted all night at the summit of 27 member states in Brussels.
"Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change,” said EU Council president Charles Michel on Twitter Friday.
"We decided to cut our greenhouse gas emissions of (sic) at least 55% by 2030."
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed it as a "great way to celebrate the first anniversary" of the EU's "Green Deal".
She said the reduction in emissions by at least 55% of 1990 levels puts the EU "on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050."
The decision is a revision of the EU's previous goal of cutting at least 40% of greenhouse emissions by the end of the decade.
It comes one day before the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, which will be marked over the weekend with a virtual "Climate Ambition Summit" co-hosted by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was worth "not sleeping a night" to make an agreement.
"I don’t know what would have happened if we had been unable to reach such a result," Merkel said at a press conference on Friday.
But environmentalists said that the deal was not sufficient and would not bring the drastic change needed to combat the climate emergency.
European parliamentarians in October called for reducing emissions by 60% of 1990 levels. Greenpeace is calling for reducing emissions by 65%.
MEP Jytte Guteland, the rapporteur of the EU climate law, said that people should not be "fooled into thinking" that the Council's decision was "sufficient".
"It is important not to be fooled into thinking that a net target of 55 percent is sufficient. I have a strong mandate from the elected representatives in the European Parliament to push for more climate ambition. I intend to do that when we meet and negotiate," Guteland tweeted on Friday morning.
Greenpeace's European unit said the bloc was moving its climate target up but not transforming food production and transportation for the future.
"Governments will no doubt call it historic, but the evidence shows that this deal is only a small improvement on the emission cuts the EU is already expected to achieve," said Greenpeace's EU climate policy advisor Sebastian Mang.
"It shows that political convenience takes precedence over climate science and that most politicians are still afraid to take on big polluters," Mang added.
It was announced on Thursday that the EU's delayed €1.8 trillion budget and coronavirus recovery fund had finally been approved after Hungary and Poland removed their vetoes.
Von der Leyen has said the trillion-euro budget would also go to programmes creating a more "resilient, green and digital EU."
For more on the story from Euronews' political editor Darren McCaffrey, watch the video in the media player above