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The European Union in global environmental governance: Leadership in the making?

  • John Vogler
  • Hannes R. Stephan
Original Paper

Abstract

For well over a decade, the European Union (EU) has proclaimed its leadership role in global environmental governance (GEG). In this article, we examine both the nature of its leadership and the underlying conditions for ‘actorness’ upon which leadership must depend. The EU’s record in the global conferences as well as its influence on the reform of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are also investigated. We argue that the EU has frequently sought to shape international environmental negotiations and promote sustainable development as an organising principle of global governance. Despite its inadequate status at the UN and internal problems, it has had a significant effect on the global agenda. However, due to persistent diplomatic opposition from other coalitions, its real, directly visible influence has been more modest. For genuine directional leadership, which goes beyond the defence of self-interest, the Union will have to make internal policy coherence a greater priority. Moreover, apart from relying solely on its weighty presence in the international system or its potential capabilities, the EU needs to achieve a high level of credibility in order to enhance its powers of persuasion.

Keywords

Actorness Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) Europe as a global actor Global environmental governance (GEG) Leadership UNEP United Nations reform 

Abbreviations

ACP

African, Caribbean and Pacific countries

CFSP

Common foreign and security policy

CSD

Commission for sustainable development

DDA

WTO’s Doha Development Agenda

EC

European Community

EMG

Environment Management Group

EU

European Union

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organisation

G77

The Group of 77 at the United Nations

GC

UNEP Governing Council

GEF

Global Environment Facility

GEG

Global environmental governance

GMEF

Global Ministerial Environmental Forum

JPI

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation

LRTAP

1979 Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention

MDGs

Millennium Development Goals

MEAs

Multilateral environmental agreements

ODA

Official development assistance

PIC

Prior informed consent

POPs

Persistent organic pollutants

REIO

Regional Economic Integration Organisation

TEC

Treaty Establishing the European Community

TEU

Treaty on European Union

UNCED

UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio 1992

UNCED+5

Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in June 1997

UNCHE

UN Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm 1972

UNDG

United Nations Development Group

UNECE

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

UNEO

United Nations Environment Organisation

UNEP

United Nations Environment Programme

WEO

World Environment Organisation

WEOG

Western Europe and Others Group

WSSD

World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002

WTO

World Trade Organization

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keele University, SPIREKeele, StaffordshireUK

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