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EU and USA strengthen their cooperation on climate and the environment ahead of major global gatherings for the planet

EU and USA strengthen their cooperation on climate and the environment ahead of major global gatherings for the planet

This week, the US Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkeviius, deepened EU-US cooperation ahead of multilateral processes and raised awareness about key Green Deal priorities in the US during an official visit. These include climate action and biodiversity protection and restoration.

He met with representatives from the US Administration and Congress in Washington DC and New York, as well multilateral organisations. He reached out to NGOs, representatives from the financial sector, philanthropists, and students. Commissioner spoke with UN interlocutors to discuss joint efforts in pressing areas in the environment and oceans agendas as they approach the major global events and negotiations taking place in 2022-2023.

Virginijus, Commissioner Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Sinkeviius said:

The triple crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss and pollution is something that we cannot ignore. It is a problem that can be tackled by no one. The US and EU are two of the world’s largest economies. They need to work together to transform our economies and establish high standards for social and environmental sustainability to improve people’s lives and health. We have a common understanding of the importance and tools needed to stop the decline of nature on land and at sea. This is a great thing. The US and the EU will work together to promote a circular economy and put nature on a path for recovery, decarbonising and fighting against plastic pollution.

During the visit, the Commissioner repeated the need to reduce, along with the US, the excessive use of resources that fuels current climate and environmental dangers. He urged the United States and other countries to join the EU and international communities to push for multilateral initiatives. These include negotiations for a treaty to protect marine Biodiversity beyond areas of National Jurisdiction, an ambitious post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to become a Convention for Biological Diversity and negotiations for a Global Plastics Agreement.

The visit revealed that there were many common interests in environment and ocean issues. There was clear connection to US priorities, including job creation, tackling climate change, and building back better while helping the poorest members of society and strengthening our democracies. Both sides agreed that they have much to learn from each other through sharing experiences and approaches through coordination and cooperation.

These were the key results:

  • Enhanced environmental cooperation with the US Environmental Protection Agency. In a crucial meeting with Administrator Michael Regan EU/USA identified a number common priorities such as circular economy and plastics and agreed to strengthen the exchanges on these subjects. They updated the Working Arrangement between DG Environment (US EPA) to provide direction and structure for future cooperation.
  • On plasticsThe EU demands a globally binding agreement that promotes circular plastics use. The US announced its support for negotiations at the UN Environment Assembly in Feb 2022.
  • On Circular economyCommissioner encouraged collaboration to stay within planetary boundaries, reap the benefits from circular economy to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. He also highlighted the potential of circular economy for economic recovery and building back better. The visit revealed that the US is now stepping forward to create a circular economy through its 10-year Vision Building a Circular Economy for All. This plan addresses many of the issues that the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan can help with.
  • On biodiversity,At the fifteenth Conference of the Parties, to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15), further positive US engagement will be made on an ambitious post-2025 global biodiversity framework to halt the loss of biodiversity. This framework will be finalized later in the year. The US and EU discussed ways to reach third parties and reached a common understanding on Nature-Based Solutions, biodiversity/climate and the need for increased US financial support for biodiversity. The EU and the US both have a goal of protecting at least 30% their land and sea areas by 2030. The Commissioner met with his counterparts to discuss further areas of action such as nature restoration and Arctic environmental protection. He also explored the geopolitical implications of ocean and environment protection. He also suggested adopting nature-positive agriculture practices and ending harmful subsidies.
  • On oceanThe US and EU reaffirmed the commitment to work together in sustainable fisheries, fighting IUU fishing, and for better ocean governance. They also discussed the geopolitical implications for current gaps and the important negotiations on an agreement on the protection marine Biodiversity beyond areas of National Jurisdiction. They also agreed to collaborate on the link between ocean and climate in international biodiversity negotiations and climate negotiations.
  • On deforestationThe recent EU proposal on deforestation received positive comments from Congress. The US is open to similar action as the FOREST Act and the Global Forest Strategy, both in Congress, are focused on illegal deforestation, which only 10 percent of global deforestation.
  • On Polar issuesThe Commissioner encouraged the US not to stop international outreach on Antarctica Marine Protected Areas. This was in the context of the EU-US sponsorship of the Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Marine Resources. He explained the EU’s ambitious goals in the updated EU Arctic Policy, including the prohibition of exploration and use for hydrocarbons. He also expressed the desire for a coordinated and mutually beneficial EU-US approach to the Arctic in the context of the US Strategy.
  • On Sustainable financeThe Commissioner emphasized the importance of multilateral development banks as well as international financial institutions. He also discussed the need for green finance, particularly biodiversity finance, with many of his interlocutors including Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of International Monetary Fund and David Malpass, President of the World Bank.

Background

This was Commissioner Sinkeviius’s first visit to the USA. It provided a high-level chance to discuss the direction and priorities for EU-US cooperation on planetary issues during the Biden Administration. The two-leg mission (Washington & New York) covered bilateral (US) as well as multilateral (UN etc.). engagements with a range stakeholders including administration officials, Congress Members and NGOs.

See Also

This visit shows the importance that the Commission places on strengthening relations with the United States. The US and the European Union have been active on the global stage for decades. The transatlantic market is the largest and most wealthy in the world. Together, the economies from both territories account to more than 40% world GDP and more 40% global trade in goods.

More information

Speech by Commissioner Sinkeviius to the press, delivered during his official visit in the United States

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