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International Issues

Multilateral Environmental Agreements

The need for international action

Most environmental problems have a transboundary nature and often a global scope, and they can only be addressed effectively through international co-operation. For this reason, the Lisbon Treaty establishes that one of the key objectives of the EU policy on the environment is to promote measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change. The Union takes an active part in the elaboration, ratification and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

International Agreements in the 7th Environment Action Programme

There is an essential international dimension to the three key objectives of the 7th Environment Action Programme of the EU (2014 – 2020): to protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital, to turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green, and competitive low-carbon economy and to safeguard the Union's citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing.

These strategic objectives can only be achieved if a series of key international environmental agreements are actively supported and properly implemented, both at Union level and worldwide.

The Action Programme contains also a horizontal priority objective to help the Union address international environmental and climate challenges more effectively. It recalls that "the Union has a good track-record when it comes to membership of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), although a number of Member States have still not ratified key agreements. This compromises the Union’s credibility in related negotiations. Member States and the Union should ensure the ratification and approval, respectively, in a timely manner, of all MEAs to which they are signatories." It also calls on the Union and its Member States to proactively engage in international negotiations on new and emerging issues.

The EU is a Party to many International Environmental Agreements

The Union has already ratified many international environmental agreements, whether at global level (multilateral agreements negotiated under the auspices of the UN), at regional level (e.g. in the context of the UN Economic Commission for Europe or the Council of Europe), and sub-regional level (for instance for the management of seas or transboundary rivers).

The matters addressed by these agreements are very wide, and include among other the following areas: biodiversity and nature protection, climate change, protection of the ozone layer, desertification, management of chemicals and waste, transboundary water and air pollution, environmental governance (including impact assessments, access to information and public participation), industrial accidents, maritime and river protection, environmental liability.

In all these fields, the Union is a leading proponent of international environmental action and co-operation, and an active player committed to promote worldwide the concept of sustainable development.

List of Agreements

A detailed table (pdf ~200K) has been drawn listing the international environmental agreements to which the Union is already a Party or a Signatory.

In addition, for ease of reference, the main agreements have also been grouped below according to the general environmental themes, in line with the structure of the Site Map.

Air:

Biotechnology:

Chemicals:

Civil Protection and Environmental Accidents:

Climate Change and Ozone Depletion:

Governance

Industry:

Land use:

Nature and biodiversity:

Soil:

Waste:

Water: