Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has joined with his French and German counterparts to call on Europe to increase its planned greenhouse gas emissions cuts to 30% by the end of the decade.
Writing in the Financial Times, the ministers said there was a "tremendous opportunity" to ensure the economic recovery sets Europe on a low carbon path which would stimulate financial growth, provide jobs, tackle climate change and improve energy security.
A failure to do so would mean the EU faced continued uncertainty and significant costs from volatile energy prices and global warming, they warned.
But the current target to cut emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020 is a key barrier to setting the EU on the path to a low-carbon future.
They said the EU would end up in the "global slow lane" if it did not address the issue, falling behind countries such as China, Japan and the US in the race to capitalise on low carbon growth.
The EU agreed its plan to cut emissions by 20% 18 months ago, but said it would increase its target to 30% if other countries showed similar ambition as part of a global climate deal - which last year's UN talks in Copenhagen failed to deliver.
Mr Huhne, along with German federal environment minister Dr Norbert Rottgen and French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo, said raising the 2020 target to 30% would be a genuine attempt to limit global temperature rises to 2C and avoid dangerous climate change.
Such a move would encourage other countries to take similar steps, they said, and it would make "good business sense" by sending a strong signal of the EU's commitment to a low-carbon future and provide greater certainty and predictability to investors.
In the article, which is also published in Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the trio said the 20% target was too low to drive investment in green technology and renewables.
The ministers also said the recession had reduced the extra cost of aiming for the more ambitious target. They said the annual cost of meeting the 20% cut goal by 2020 had fallen a third from 70 billion euro (£58 billion) to 48 billion euro (£40 billion), and the move to a 30% reduction would only be 11 billion euro (£9 billion) a year more than the original cost of achieving the 20% cut.