The European Union (EU) is set to resume talks early next year about moving to a stricter carbon goal after countries worldwide backed its plan to start work toward a climate treaty that will be enacted by 2020.

Europe pledged on Sunday after the conclusion of a two-week United Nations (UN) climate summit in Durban, South Africa, to adopt a binding post-2012 emission-cutting target under the Kyoto Protocol in exchange for a vow by both industrialized and developing countries including China and India to commit to carbon cuts under a new deal with legal force.

U.N. climate official Christiana Figueres (R) talks with delegates at the climate change summit as it nears it’s end in the city of Durban, South Africa on 10 December 2011. AP

“Decisions on the second-commitment Kyoto targets will be taken next year," Isaac Valero-Ladron, climate spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive arm in Brussels, said in an emailed response to Bloomberg questions. “Discussions are most likely to start at the meeting of environment ministers in March."

Talks about the future stringency of the EU climate protection policies, an area over which member states have been divided since the adoption of the bloc’s climate legislation package in 2008, may also get new impetus after Denmark, which has called for more ambitious goals, takes over the rotating presidency of the bloc in January.

“Given the relative success of this summit, the EU now needs to urgently deal with its low low-emission reduction ambition and start increasing its target well beyond 30%," said Wendel Trio, director for Europe at environmental lobby Climate Action Network.

At stake is the price of carbon dioxide in the EU emissions market, the world’s largest, which has plunged 46% this year amid speculation that the euro area debt crisis may worsen and concerns that oversupply of permits may increase following the introduction of new energy efficiency legislation.

Stepping up energy savings will enable the bloc to exceed its 20% carbon-cut goal, and reduce greenhouse gases by 25% domestically by 2020, according to the commission. The most cost-efficient scenario to meet the bloc’s long-term emission targets is to cut discharges by 40% in 2030 and 60% in 2040, it said in a policy paper published in March.

The EU regulatory arm is due to present early next year an analysis on the costs of reaching more ambitious climate targets at a national level.

The European cap-and-trade programme covers about 50% of the region’s emissions and was valued at €120 billion last year.

EU emission permits for December rose as much as 6.1% to €8.32 on Monday, before falling back to €7.77 as of 1pm in London after the decision by UN envoys on Sunday to start a process leading to a global deal. The European pledge to extend the Kyoto Protocol targets will create a bridging mechanism for the period between the current goals expire and the new legally binding agreement comes into force.

UN envoys agreed that the end-date for the so-called Kyoto second commitment period will be decided next year. During the talks negotiators considered two options, 2017 and 2020.