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Summaries of EU legislation

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Environment and climate change

The EU has some of the world’s highest environmental standards, developed over decades. Environment policy helps the EU economy become more environmentally friendly, protects Europe’s natural resources, and safeguards the health and wellbeing of people living in the EU.

Environmental quality is central to our health, our economy and our well-being. However, it faces several serious challenges, not least those of climate change, unsustainable consumption and production, as well as various forms of pollution.

EU environmental policies and legislation protect natural habitats, keep air and water clean, ensure proper waste disposal, improve knowledge about toxic chemicals and help businesses move toward a sustainable economy.

On climate change, the EU formulates and implements climate policies and strategies, taking a leading role in international negotiations on climate. It is committed to ensuring the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and implementing the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). In this regard, EU countries have agreed to meet various targets in the years to come. The EU seeks to ensure that climate concerns are taken on board in other policy areas (e.g. transport and energy) and also promotes low-carbon technologies and adaptation measures.

EU environment policy is based on Articles 11 and 191-193 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Under Article 191, combating climate change is an explicit objective of EU environmental policy. Sustainable development is an overarching objective for the EU, which is committed to a ‘high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment’ (Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union).