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International environmental cooperation

International environmental cooperation

The EU plays a key role in international environmental negotiations. It is a party to numerous global, regional or sub-regional environmental agreements on a wide range of issues, such as nature protection and biodiversity, climate change, and trans-boundary air or water pollution. For instance, at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nagoya (Japan) in 2010, the EU made a major contribution to achieving an agreement on a global strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. Likewise, the Union participated in the decision to develop the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all countries which emerged from the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development held in 2012. Traditionally, the EU has also set standards during international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The EU also acceded to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to pursue its fight against wildlife crime at the international level.

E. Implementation, enforcement and monitoring

EU environmental law has been built up since the 1970s. Several hundred directives, regulations and decisions are in force today in this field. However, the effectiveness of EU environmental policy is largely determined by its implementation at national, regional and local levels, and deficient application and enforcement remain an important issue. Monitoring is crucial — both of the state of the environment and of the level of implementation of EU environmental law.

To counteract the wide disparity in the level of implementation among Member States, in 2001 the European Parliament and the Council adopted (non-binding) minimum standards for environmental inspections. In order to improve the enforcement of EU environmental law, Member States have to provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions for the most serious environmental offences. These include, for instance: the illegal emission or discharge of substances into the air, water or soil; illegal trade in wildlife; illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances; and illegal shipment or dumping of waste. The European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) is an international network of the environmental authorities of EU Member States, accession and candidate countries, as well as Norway, created to boost enforcement by providing a platform for policymakers, environmental inspectors and enforcement officers to exchange ideas and best practice.