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. 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.
The EU is recognised as a leading proponent of international action on environment and is committed to promoting sustainable development worldwide. Sustainable development is one of the overarching objectives of the EU as set out in its Treaties. 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. In response to the 2030 Agenda, the EU adopted a sustainable development package.