Ensuring a healthy environment and climate is at the heart of a universal sustainable development agenda both in its own right but also due to the clear interdependencies with other policy fields such as trade, security, conflict prevention and migration.
European citizens enjoy some of the world's highest environmental standards. However, no matter how robust internal EU environmental legislation is, it cannot shield us from the negative consequences of trans-boundary and global environmental degradation, nor does it sufficiently reduce the impact of the EU's economic activity on natural resources worldwide.
Confronting the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and biosafety, deforestation, air and water pollution, and chemicals management – to name but a few – requires real commitment and effective cooperation at the international level.
For a long time, the EU has played a key role as a proponent of international environmental action and cooperation. The EU is a party to the Rio Conventions of 1992 which were a major achievement for environmental protection. The EU is also a party to a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements which usually include a commitment to help developing countries implement these agreements.
In the last few years in particular, the EU has worked in an effective and unified way towards the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and through coordinated climate diplomacy, towards the adoption and full implementation of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
The EU contributes to fighting climate change at global level through both domestic action and international cooperation.
This means policies, legislation and initiatives for:
Fighting climate change requires action from all countries across the world. The EU is working to promote ambitious global action through:
The EU uses its complimentary foreign policy instruments, including policy dialogue, international negotiations and financial instruments to advance the sustainable development and climate change agenda and promote its implementation in partner countries.
Maintaining the positive momentum from the Paris Agreement requires sustained political and diplomatic mobilisation at global level. The EU Climate Diplomacy Action Plan focuses on:
Ongoing bilateral and multilateral negotiations on liberalising trade in green goods and services are also used to facilitate the global action to mitigate climate change and to create business opportunities for European companies.
The EU furthermore exercises leadership in promoting ambitious outcomes in the context of the negotiations in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to address greenhouse gas emissions, as well as under the Montreal Protocol negotiations.
To support countries around the world in adapting to climate change the EU finances a wide variety of programmes and projects. Examples of adaptation measures include: using scarce water resources more efficiently; adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events; building flood defences and raising the levels of dykes; developing drought-tolerant crops; choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.
Coordination of the EU’s external action in this field is supported by the Green Diplomacy Network , working at European level in Brussels and around the world where EU Delegations and Member State embassies work in a coordinated way to implement EU priorities and/or organize outreach through events, seminars, public diplomacy actions and official demarches, as fostered in particular through the Climate Diplomacy Action Plans.
Aimed at enabling the EU to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments, the EU in 2016 adopted 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' proposals intended to help the EU energy sector become more stable, more competitive, and more sustainable, and fit for the 21st century. With a view to stimulating investment in the clean energy transition, the package focuses on renewable energy, energy efficiency and a fair deal for consumers.
To effectively respond to global energy challenges such as climate change, environmental protection, and volatile prices, international cooperation is also crucial. The EU works with its international partners to ensure secure supplies of energy at competitive prices. At the same time, the success of EU policies to tackle worldwide greenhouse gas emissions also hinges on the energy policies of other countries.
When individual EU countries negotiate international energy agreements with non-EU countries, they share information on these agreements with the European Commission and each other. This is done through the Commission's information exchange mechanism. It ensures that these agreements do not violate EU laws and are in line with the EU’s sustainable development goals.
The EU also implements an Energy Diplomacy Action Plan, to promote using all external policy instruments to ensure that a strong, united EU engages constructively with its partners and speaks with one voice on energy and climate.
The Action Plan has four pillars: