ROME - Italian bank UniCredit signed a deal with conservation group WWF on Wednesday to slash its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2020, and provide green loans to boost energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

Officials at WWF, which has already agreed partnerships with companies such as IBM and Nokia to reduce emissions, said the deal was groundbreaking because it would affect not just the company's own emissions, but its clients'.

We hope a Green Deal like this one between UniCredit and WWF will be an inspiration for others, said Kim Carstensen, head of WWF's Global Climate Deal Initiative. We need more real action by real people.

UniCredit will launch a House Efficiency loan, supported by energy consulting services, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve household energy efficiency.

The bank said that by investing 4,000 euros in energy efficiency the average Italian home could cut its carbon emissions by one tonne per year.

Small- and medium-sized businesses could cut emissions by 12 tonnes a year with a 10,000 euro investment.

Unicredit has already set up a trial branch run entirely on renewable energy, and has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2012, with a view to reaching the full 20 percent target by 2020.

The deal comes as world leaders are embarking on negotiations for a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto agreement, due to be signed in Copenhagen in December.

The U.N. Climate Panel says rising world emissions will cause more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising seas. It says developed nations needs to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of this.

I hope that deals like this can help us at a political level, said Carstensen of the WWF, also known as the World Wildlife Fund. (Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Keiron Henderson)