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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 growth 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.

Environmental leadership

The EU is recognised as a leading proponent of international action on environment and is committed to promoting sustainable development worldwide. Indeed, the EC Treaty requires that Community policy on the environment promote, 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 (Commission on Sustainable Development, UNEP Governing Council), the EU's constructive position has on several occasions proved crucial to ensuring progress. For instance, the EU was widely praised for bringing about the successful conclusion of the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in particular the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, and for being a leading player at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development

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 will also contribute to the development of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were a key outcome of Rio+20.

The post-2015 Agenda

The UN General Assembly Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals in September 2013 agreed the main parameters of the post-2015 development agenda, building on progress with the MDGs, and on the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, which agreed to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the UN discussions on the SDGs are take place at the UN Open Working Group (OWG) on SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals will contribute to a new international framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The framework will be universal and apply to all, on the basis of a partnership between all countries, as well as with civil society and the private sector. The framework will be based on the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, environmental and economic.

The Commission Communication of June 2014 "A Decent Life for All: from Vision to collective Action" describes key principles and proposes priority areas and potential targets for the years following 2015, as a contribution towards establishing a limited number of Sustainable Development Goals.


The Communication will be discussed by Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The outcome will guide the EU's position in the negotiations at UN level and contribute to the preparation of the UN Secretary General's report on the post-2015 framework, due later in 2014.


This Communication builds on earlier EU positions set out in Council Conclusions of June 2013 on "the Overarching post-2015 Agenda", and a previous Communication "A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future".

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