The EU promotes environmental protection through multilateral environmental agreements with other states. These cover areas such as global biodiversity, trade in wild plants and animals, avoiding trade in illegally harvested timber, the safe handling of chemicals, and waste.
The EU supports the international process for sustainable development, and played a key role at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. That conference gave a push to sustainable development in areas like marine biodiversity, land degradation, water and energy.
As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the EU supports its work on protected areas, climate change and biodiversity. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) restricts or bans trade in endangered species and related products.
The EU is working to strengthen CITES, which it implements through the Wildlife Trade Regulations.
Illegal logging and deforestation cause severe environmental damage, including a loss of biodiversity and impacts on climate change. All timber on the EU market now has to come from legally sound sources. The EU has signed agreements with countries in Africa and Asia to help them improve their forest governance, making it easier for them to trade legally harvested timber with the EU.
Whaling is outlawed in EU waters, but whales move between oceans so they need worldwide protection. The EU supports the moratorium on commercial whaling.
In 2002 world leaders agreed to renew their commitment to the sound management of chemicals so that by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimise significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. The European Union is working to fulfil this goal through policies like REACH.
Waste prevention is another area where the EU is making a global contribution. We lobby to raise rates of reuse, recycling and waste recovery. Large quantities of waste – some of which is hazardous – are moved between countries, and the EU plays an active role in improving controls on these trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste
The EU is also working to develop a global framework to ensure that all waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner.