Skip to main content

Environmental protection

Through its trade policy the EU supports the implementation of international environmental rules, set mainly in multilateral environmental agreements.

Trade topics
  • Sustainable development

These include the:

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
  • Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • 2015 Paris Agreement
  • Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change
  • Montreal Protocol on ozone layer protection
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants
  • Rotterdam Convention on international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides
  • Basel Convention on hazardous waste movement and disposal

Trade policy can also help combat climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy by:

  • encouraging innovation;
  • encouraging investment in low-carbon production, and;
  • making environmental goods and services more affordable.


The WTO members including developed and developing countries, felt it was time to act and committed to increasing the role of trade in the fight against climate change and protecting the environment in the WTO. The EU, together with a significant number of WTO members, launched three plurilateral initiatives : on (i) trade and environmental sustainability; (ii) plastic pollution and sustainable plastics trade; and (iii) fossil fuel subsidy reform.

Bilateral trade agreements

The EU uses its trade agreements to contribute to climate action by:

  • reaffirming the commitment to implement international climate conventions;
  • early opening of trade in environmental goods, including those important for mitigating climate change;
  • promoting trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and;
  • removing non-tariff barriers to trade and investment in renewable energy generation.


Under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences+, developing countries can gain additional access to the EU market by ratifying and putting into practice 27 international conventions: including most of the multilateral environmental agreements listed above.


The EU has also entered into bilateral agreements with a number of countries so that only legally-harvested timber will be exported to the EU. These are called Forest Law Enforcement Governance (FLEG) and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreements.


The EU also acts to prevent imports of fish from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as trade in such products within the EU market.


The EU controls trade in hazardous and non-hazardous waste to ensure that waste is managed in an environmentally-sound way, and to prevent and minimise negative impacts on human health.


The EU works with the United Nations Environmental Programme on initiatives promoting trade and environment.


The EU also carefully examines the potential impact of trade agreements on climate change through Sustainability Impact Assessments.


Increased international trade can increase greenhouse gases emissions from transport, in particular shipping and air transport. The EU is working with the International Maritime Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization to address this issue.

Latest news

Latest events