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European Union’s New Role as a Global Environmental Leader

By Ananya Atri : The author is an International Chairperson, India-Netherlands Youth Forum of Global Youth.

The European Union has made huge advancements and gained significant international recognition since the 1970s in the field of global environmental issues (Zito, 2005). The idea of European strategy for Sustainable Development and Global Environmental Governance (GEG) is very different from what sovereign nation-states have previously sought. The idea has been self-consciously marketed as a component of the emerging identity of the Union, appealing to multilateralism and sustainability (Vogler & Stephan, 2007). The EU can be seen as a "sui generis" (an independent legal uniqueness) international climate actor since it is the only regional body that is a party to both the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The European Green Deal reflects the spirit of climate policy efforts and concerns of our time. It includes a plethora of policy initiatives aimed at fundamentally transforming the EU’s economy towards environmental sustainability (Blaschke et al., 2021). Its new role is explained by enabling international negotiations, setting legal actions, legislating, and fulfilling international environmental standards, which other regional organizations have yet to achieve. European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication (2019) explains that the European Union has pledged, through the European Green Deal, to set the bar high for multilayered diplomacy and collaboration.

EU is a "global leader" since it operates beyond the borders of the European continent. This may be seen in the EU's initiatives to work with the G20 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, collaborate with Africa to combat climate change, and forge green alliances with allies in Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific. Additionally, it established a green agenda with the western Balkans to replicate the Green Deal and formed energy and climate partnerships with the southern neighborhood.

Furthermore, by adopting a legislative proposal for a European climate law, the European Commission established the goal for the EU to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 (Erbach, 2021). EU aims to make Europe the first continent to be climate neutral by 2050, while also boost industry competitiveness and ensure a just transition for the affected areas and employees (Erbach, 2021). One important point to be aware of is that the EU has pledged to implement the "Fit for 55" policy in an effort to "really" achieve the target. To successfully execute net zero carbon emission by 2050, this refers to at least a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030 (relative to levels in 1990). The EU has not only passed laws but also demonstrated efficient implementation strategies. The idea of a "fair transition" (continuous balanced and equitable governance between the beneficiaries and sufferers from the transition), ensures that nations implementing a zero-carbon promise are not adversely affected economically. As a result, the EU has committed to providing at least 65–75 billion euros in technical and financial help to the worst impacted regions between 2021 and 2027.

When it comes to providing its citizens with tangible advantages, the EU has a proven track record of success when it comes to addressing climate change, It has demonstrated how even the smallest improvements can rescue the earth. One such example is energy labels, which are placed on every product and guide customers toward the environmentally friendly and energy-efficient options. Energy labels have had more than one successful outcome. Eco-friendly products are also affordable, saving EU people money when they purchase them. Another tangible good that the EU regulates to limit consumption of is single-use plastic.

Environmental protection laws need each other to work, and the EU is aware of this. Therefore, the EU's digital strategy aids in its realization. The "open, democratic, and sustainable society" pillar of the EU's digital policy pledges to use technology to make the world carbon neutral by 2050. Its main objective is to reduce carbon emissions from the EU's digital economy.

One thing to note is that the only significant economy on the planet that has implemented legislation addressing all economic sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement is the European Union. Leading by example is undoubtedly what Global leaders do, and this initiative aims to achieve just that.

"We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it—for Europe's natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests, and for our seas .By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”

  • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission


Blaschke, John, ed. The EU as a global leader on climate action between ambition and reality. Hanns Seidel Stiftung, 2021.

Erbach. European climate law. European Parliament Briefing. 2021 Retrieved from

European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication. EU as a global leader : the European Green Deal, Publications Office. 2019. Retrieved from

Vogler, John, and Hannes R. Stephan. "The European Union in global environmental governance: Leadership in the making?." International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 7 (2007): 389-413.

Zito, Anthony R. "The European Union as an environmental leader in a global environment." Globalizations 2, no. 3 (2005): 363-375.

Glossary: Fair transitions (continuous balanced and equitable governance between the beneficiaries and sufferers from the transition

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