BRUSSELS — The E.U. presidency is confident that the United States under President Barack Obama “will follow the leadership of the European Union”, by setting ambitious mid-term goals for cutting greenhouse gases.

The 27 E.U. nations in December committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 but have also agreed to increase the cut if the rest of the developed world gets on board with the plan.

“We know that the U.S. wants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, we don’t know what their mid-term target is,” Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik told reporters after a meeting with his E.U. counterparts.

“We understand that the United States will follow the leadership of the European Union,” said Bursik, whose country holds the rotating E.U. presidency.

The ministers see the arrival of Obama as a great boost for the chances of agreeing a far-reaching global deal for climate change at talks in Copenhagen in December.

Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol which the Copenhagen meeting will seek to replace.

E.U. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas echoed the Czech optimism.

If Obama is promising such sweeping greenhouse gas cuts by 2050 “that means they have to put on the table a mid-term target also. They can’t do it all in the last year.”

Bursik and Dimas announced that they would visit Washington on March 14-15 to sound out the intentions of the U.S. administration.

And “climate change will be one of the first things we will discuss with President Obama when he visits Prague on April 5,” said Bursik.

Obama is to meet with European leaders at an E.U.-U.S. summit in the Czech capital, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek announced Sunday.

The E.U. leaders hailed Obama’s plan for a landmark carbon gas cap-and-trade system to both fight climate change and pump billions into the Treasury purse to fund renewable energy programs.

The innovative program — similar to one already in place in Europe — would rev up U.S. efforts against global warming by reducing the output of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, while raising direly-needed revenue.

The administration’s proposed program was part of a 3.55-trillion-dollar budget unveiled by the president last month, which outlines a cap-and-trade system which would limit emissions of greenhouse gases by manufacturers, and permit companies to trade the right to pollute to other manufacturers.

Dimas stressed that the 30 percent emissions reduction target would be an average for developed nations and “the United States could do more or less”.

The objectives will be achieved he assured, asserting that “leadership without an ambitious mid-term target” is useless.