While policies to tackle climate change used to be seen as solely the preserve of environmental policy-makers, there is now widespread recognition that climate change is inextricably linked with numerous policy fields, such as trade, energy, security, conflict prevention and migration. Climate change is truly a global challenge, and is regularly on the agenda at international or bilateral meetings.

The climate campaigner

The EU is known from such meetings as a strong proponent of international environmental action and cooperation. Indeed, the 195 parties to the December 2011UN climate change convention agreed on a roadmap for drawing up a legal framework on climate action that had been proposed by the EU.

The EU is also a party to a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements which usually include a commitment to help developing countries in implementation of these agreements. Climate change is today a key component in EU relations with developing countries.

Domestic ambitions

At home, EU leaders have agreed to a set of targets, to be met by 2020, that have come to be known as the ‘20-20-20 targets’. These aim to:

  • reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels
  • increase to 20% the proportion of EU energy consumption coming from renewable sources
  • reduce – through energy efficiency – the amount of primary energy used by 20% compared with projected levels.

The EU has also offered to further reduce its emissions – by 30% if other major economies commit to comparable emission reductions or adequate contributions. Negotiations on this are ongoing within the framework of the United Nations.

In its ‘Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050’, the European Commission also looked at new ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95% by the middle of the century.

Policy and practice

In 2002 the EU adopted a Strategy on Environmental Integration in External Policies. Its aim was to define how best to pursue EU international environmental policy in the day-to-day conduct of external relations. One of the great successes to come out of the resulting increase in activity in this area is the Green Diplomacy Network.

In addition to policy dialogue and international negotiations, the EU funds projects that advance the EU international climate change agenda, such as research into low carbon and adaptation technologies.

The European Commission’s Climate Action Directorate-General
The European Commission’s Environment Directorate-General