International environmental cooperation and the EU
Some forms of pollution are threatening not only the European ecological systems but also the natural balance of the entire planet, e.g. climate change, ozone layer, bio-diversity). These problems have to be tackled on an international basis. Participation by the European Community/Union as such in the work of specialist international bodies geared to preserving the world's natural wealth and preventing barriers to international trade forestalls differences of opinion amongst the Member States and highlights their common interests. Furthermore, active participation by the EC/EU in the work on the environment of other international organisations, such as the OECD, the Council of Europe and the United Nations, enables European law to follow international thinking in that area. As we shall see in the following sections, the EC/EU as such has signed several international conventions for the protection of the environment.
The European Community/Union as a body participated in the United Nations Conference on the environment and development (UNCED), the so-called "Earth Summit", held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992. This conference culminated in the adoption of the Rio Declaration and the "Agenda 21", which is the international European action programme for the environment and development in the twenty-first century and contains a number of innovative features, namely acknowledgement of the need for sustainable development; shared but differentiated responsibility of States; and world partnership. The environmentally sustainable development strategy is now incorporated in the European programme on the environment. The European Community/Union is a contracting party to the UN Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol of this Convention [see section 16.3.4] and several Conventions for the protection of the atmosphere, the sea and inland waters. It is actively involved in the international work to follow up the UNCED, particularly in the meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development which concern forest conservation, the protection of biodiversity, urban and rural environment, land management and coastal resource management of developing countries.
The agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) between the EU and the EFTA countries institutes, among other things, a close environmental cooperation [see section 25.1]. Relations between the countries of Western Europe and the European countries candidates for accession have an environmental component, so as to redress the ecological situation at the same time as the economic situation of those countries [see section 25.2]. One of the aims pursued by projects supported in the framework of the PHARE programme is directly to improve the environmental situation in the countries aided and even to lay the foundations of a coherent policy in this area.