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International Issues

The EU - setting the pace in international environment policy

European citizens enjoy some 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. Today’s challenges are much more inter-related and we have to make sure that we achieve sustainable development in all of its three dimensions: environmental, social and economic.

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.

Environmental leadership

The EU is recognised as a leading proponent of international action on environment and is committed to promoting sustainable development worldwide. The EC Treaty requires that Community policy on the environment promotes, inter alia, measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems. As an active participant in the elaboration and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and other environmental negotiations and processes, notably in the United Nations framework (High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Environment Assembly), the EU's constructive position has on several occasions proved crucial to ensuring progress.

Following the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or "Rio+20", held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, the EU is actively engaged in the reform of the UN institutions responsible for sustainable development (ECOSOC and the High Level Political Forum) and for environment (UNEP). The EU has also contributed to the development of 17 Sustainable Development Goals that will play an important part in a new transformative global Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

"Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" was informally agreed by UN Member States in early August. It will be formally adopted by Heads of State at a special summit on 25-27 September. This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It seeks to address the urgent global challenges of poverty eradication, climate change, environmental degradation, conflict and instability, and to strengthen peace and freedom. The Agenda is universal and applies to all, on the basis of a partnership between all countries, as well as with civil society and the private sector.

The Agenda has been developed over the last three years, bringing together the work to follow up the Millennium Development Goals, and the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference.  The Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July 2015 sets out the means of implementing the Agenda, which is a key pillar for its success.  The Agenda itself consists of four sections: (i) a Political Declaration (ii) a set of 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets (iii) Means of Implementation (iv) a framework for follow-up and review. 

The EU has played an active role throughout the process and is committed to implementing the Agenda within the EU and in development cooperation with partner countries. The final outcome reflects many of the EU's priorities for sustainable development, as set out in recent Communications and Council Conclusions. The EU is now preparing its response, setting out how we will implement the goals and targets with the full engagement of stakeholders, and how we will monitor and report our progress.

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Council Conclusions “A transformative post-2015 agenda” of December 2014 set a clear EU vision for a transformative and universal agenda. The Conclusions were based on a Communication of the Commission "A Decent Life for all: from Vision to Collective Action" adopted in June 2014, which calls for integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, social and economic) in a balanced manner.

The EU adopted further Conclusions on "a global partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015" on 26 May 2015, based on the Commission's February 2015 Communication. This Communication identifies means of implementation for the Agenda, including an enabling and conducive policy environment and capacity to deliver; as well as mobilisation and effective use of domestic and international public and private finance. The Conclusions also set out the EU vision for a system for monitoring, accountability and review of the post 2015 agenda.