The European Union (EU) and its Member States provide important political and financial support to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for our programmes around the world.

The EU and its Member States are frontrunners in environmental policy, and the European Green Deal demonstrates the EU ambitions in the fields of climate, circular economy, biodiversity, agriculture, industry and zero-pollution. The EU’s policies and practices on the environment have far-reaching impacts in the region but also at the global level.

“The European Union’s decisions on the economy and the environment have far-reaching impacts. By endorsing the European Green Deal, EU member states can drive positive change for their citizens and with partners worldwide. UNEP is ready to support countries in tailoring national action plans to seize the best investment opportunities from the Green Deal.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP

UNEP and the EU are active partners in establishing, implementing and evaluating international environmental policies. The European Union and its Member States are contracting parties to and keen supporters of a large number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), of which some are administered by UNEP. MEAs are vehicles for negotiating and ensuring the implementation of international agreements on key environmental challenges. The Commission has taken a prominent role in such agreements, including the Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Protocol, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and a number of regional agreements.

As a proponent of international environmental governance, the EU has also been very supportive in strengthening UNEP’s role as “the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations," since the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

The EU participates biennially alongside its Member States in the meetings of the UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level environmental decision-making body, to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law.

The EU and its Member States are also major financial contributors. In 2019, 6 EU Member States featured in the top 10 donors of the Environment Fund. EU Member States and the European Commission were also amongst top donors for earmarked funding.  


UNEP and the European Commission

Factsheet: UNEP and the European Commission

UNEP and the EU – through the executive branch, the European Commission (EC) – have a strong and long-standing partnership both on a policy dialogue and programmatic cooperation. UNEP and the EC have worked together since UNEP’s creation in 1972 and further strengthened their relationship through the agreement of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2004. The agreement enhances the ability of both organisations to jointly contribute to the strengthening of the environmental dimension of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in the context of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The MoU is implemented through annual High-Level Policy Dialogues, which are underpinned by regular technical meetings.

The Memorandum of Understanding with the EC is complemented by an Annex which spells out specific areas for enhanced dialogue and cooperation. In 2020 the original Annex was revisited and replaced by a newly negotiated one which reflects international developments and processes as well as the strategic focus of the European Green Deal, and outlines priority areas of dialogue and cooperation for the period 2021-2025.

Over the years, UNEP and the EC have advanced their partnership by successfully implementing a wide range of projects in the areas of the cooperation defined by the MoUs. Since 2011, this cooperation has furthermore resulted in the implementation of a number of innovative framework agreements, offering an opportunity to allocate seed funding to priority areas. This support has contributed to the setting up of the Secretariat of the International Resource Panel, launch of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, and the creation of the Minamata Convention.  

UNEP is dependent on voluntary financial contributions for 95 per cent of our income. Core funding and softly earmarked funding is critical for us as we support countries to deliver on the environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda. The European Union is one of UNEP's main supporters for voluntary contributions. In 2019, the European Commission was one of the top donors of earmarked funding, ranking 4th with a total of 36.4 million USD. This has allowed UNEP to implement its work programme and make a difference at the global and regional level in the following areas:

  • Transforming environmental governance
  • Resource efficiency and green economy
  • Sound management of chemicals and wastes
  • Ecosystems services and natural capital
  • Science-policy interface