International Partnerships

Green alliances and partnerships

The EU is at the forefront of international efforts to promote economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development to address the planetary crisis and in particular to fight climate change. The European Green Deal is Europe’s structural response and new growth strategy that  sets out ambitions to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where:

  1. There are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050;
  2. Economic growth is decoupled from resource use;
  3. Natural capital is protected, sustainably managed and restored
  4. The health and well-being of citizens is protected from environment-related risks and impacts;
  5. No person and no place is left behind.

As a global leader, the EU will continue to lead international efforts, and in conjunction with our partners, address environmental challenges and promote the implementation of ambitious environment, climate and energy policies across the world. Through bilateral efforts, we will accompany partners to transition towards more sustainable development pathways.

Low Carbon and Circular Economies

The Circular Economy Action Plan supports new initiatives along the entire life cycle of products in order to modernise and transform the economy, while protecting the environment. The transition to a circular economy (CE) is an opportunity to expand sustainable and job-intensive economic activity. The EU supports the transition to CE at global level through diplomacy, trade and international cooperation, including:

  • Leading efforts towards a global agreement on plastics
  • Proposing a Global Circular Economy Alliance and initiating discussions on an international agreement on the management of natural resources. 
  • Supporting mainstreaming circular economy objectives in free trade agreements, in other bilateral, regional and multilateral processes and agreements, and in EU external policy funding instruments

Through the EU Industrial Strategy the EU supports a green and digital industrial transformation to keep small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sustainable and competitive. On a global stage the EU will leverage its single market to set global standards and support our partners in their ambitions for a green and digital industrial transformation. In addition, the EU’s continued support of the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+), Switch to Green, and Development Smart Innovation through research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) will help partner countries in their transition to a green, circular and decarbonised economy.

By implementing new legislative waste reforms Europe strives to reduce its global waste impact by implementing new EU rules on the import and export of waste.

Protecting, Sustainably Managing and Restoring Nature

The new 2030 Biodiversity Strategy is a comprehensive, systemic and ambitious long-term plan for protecting, sustainably managing and restoring nature, as well as reversing environmental degradation by addressing all drivers of biodiversity loss. These transformative commitments will be a key pillar of the European Green Deal, and of EU leadership on international action for global public goods and achieving the sustainable development goals.

The Strategy outlines what the EU aims to achieve and is ready to commit to at the 2021 UN Biodiversity Conference, including:

  • Overarching long-term goals for biodiversity ensuring that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected
  • Ambitious global 2030 targets in line with the EU commitments proposed in the new Biodiversity Strategy
  • Improved means of implementation in areas such as finance, capacity, research, know-how and technology
  • A far stronger implementation, monitoring and review process
  • A fair and equitable share of the benefits from the use of genetic resources linked to biodiversity and a principle of equality.

The 2030 Biodiversity Strategy also sets out ambitious actions through the EU’s ‘Green Deal diplomacy’, including in international ocean governance, trade, development co-operation, neighbourhood policies, resource mobilisation and mainstreaming of biodiversity into all economic sectors, climate action and support to food systems in particular.

Strategic inputs for biodiversity conservation have also been outlined specifically for Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean

Through the renewal of the EU Forest Strategy, the EU aims to reduce its contribution to global deforestation and forest degradation. Under the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)  Action Plan, the EU will continue to fight illegal logging and associated trade, and to promote the sustainable management of forests and their resources.


Sustainable Food Production

The EU will support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems, in line with the Farm to Fork Strategy and the SDGs. Through its external policies, including international cooperation and trade policy, the EU will pursue the development of Green Alliances on sustainable food systems with all its partners. This will include cooperation with Africa, neighbours and other partners and will have regard to distinct challenges in different parts of the world.

To ensure a successful global transition, the EU will encourage and support the development of comprehensive, integrated responses benefiting people, nature and economic growth.

As part the EU’s international cooperation strategy it will continue to support food research and innovation, with particular reference to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Reducing Pollution

In 2021 the EU is planning to commit to a Zero Pollution Action Plan for Water, Air and Soil. The EU’s zero pollution ambition aims to secure healthy ecosystems and a healthy living environment for Europeans and people globally. It intends to:

  • better prevent and remedy pollution from air, water, soil, and consumer products;
  • address pollution legacy through strengthening the polluter-pays principle;
  • mainstream the zero pollution ambition into all policy developments;
  • move towards zero pollution production and consumption;
  • strengthen the links between environmental protection, sustainable development and people’s well-being.

The EU has already proposed a Chemical Strategy for Sustainability in which the EU plays a leading role globally, by championing and promoting high standards and not producing for export chemicals banned in the EU. The EU is also actively involved in several international initiatives on reducing methane emissions, including through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). 

Water and Oceans

The EU will support the Human Rights Guidelines on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation to ensure progressive implementation of the human right to water to meet population needs in terms of quality, quantity, affordability, and access. Through a rights-based approach, the EU steers partnerships towards global access to basic services by promoting and protecting human rights and dignity. As water risks have heavy human, environmental and economic costs, the EU Council’s conclusions on Water Diplomacy will also serve as a tool for peace, security and stability. In the years ahead, the EU will be strongly committed to implementing policies and programmes supporting transboundary water cooperation and Integrated Water Resources Management. By creating benefits for all to share, the EU’s cooperative approaches promote water efficiency and improve water allocation in partner countries.

The EU policy on International ocean governance set priorities for improving the international framework governing our oceans. This includes the facilitation of a sustainable blue economy and strengthening international ocean research and data to ensure that the ocean is safe, secure, clean, sustainably managed and able to play its role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The EU also supports a zero tolerance in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU), to combat overfishing and promote sustainable management of fish and seafood resources.

Smart and Green Cities

The continued rapid urbanisation in many of our partner countries is one of the most visible megatrends of the 21st century. How countries, cities, international community respond to these developments will be paramount for achievements in context of the external Green Deal – as challenges and opportunities increasingly are concentrated in the cities/urban areas. Failing to act prior to the surge in urbanisation risk greatly increasing costs and negatively affecting prospects for sustainability, inclusiveness and prosperity. 

The EU Member States adopted the New Leipzig Charter in Nov 2020 which sets out policy framework for the role and contribution of cities to amongst others the European Green Deal. The New Leipzig Charter highlights the transformative power of cities, advancing a vision of Green, Just and Productive Cities through integrated urban development. 

Smart and Green Infrastructure

The EU will continue to promote a global green energy transition together with its partner countries.  As the EU only contributes 10% to global greenhouse gas emissions, it is crucial to support partner countries in decarbonising their energy sectors. The EU will launch an Africa-EU Green Energy initiative through the following key pillars:

  • policy dialogue to create a conducive business environment
  • technical assistance and capacity building to spur regulatory, policy and governance reforms in partner countries and support project developers
  • boost investments through blended finance and guarantees.

The EU will continue to support projects that facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy through partnerships including ElectriFI, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and the Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Saharan Africa.   

Through initiatives like the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme (TTTFP) and MobiliseYourCity, the EU supports the international development of qualitative infrastructure, and where relevant, promotes safe and efficient mobility.

Sustainable Investment

Through the External investment Plan (EIP), and the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), the EU supports international investment in initiatives that contribute to the UN's sustainable development goals (SDG) while tackling some of the root causes of migration and supporting green growth.

The EU Taxonomy is an important enabler to scale up sustainable investment and to implement the European Green Deal. Notably, by providing appropriate definitions to companies, investors and policymakers on which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable, it is expected to create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, help companies to plan the transition, mitigate market fragmentation and eventually help shift investments where they are most needed. The Taxonomy Regulation of June 2020 establishes the framework for the EU taxonomy by setting out four overarching conditions that an economic activity has to meet in order to qualify as environmentally sustainable and includes six environmental objectives across climate mitigation and adaptation, water and marine resources, circular economy, pollution and biodiversity.

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