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News article10 December 2021Directorate-General for Environment

European Commission and UN Environment Programme step up cooperation for a zero-pollution future

At the first-ever Policy Dialogue on Zero Pollution concluded yesterday in Brussels, the European Commission (EC) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have agreed to act together at the global level to urgently reduce pollution in an integrated manner, aligning their respective zero pollution action plans towards closer EC-UNEP cooperation. Both partners are also paying increasing attention to nature protection and restoration as one of the solutions to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity, and pollution.

Astrid Schomaker, EC, DG Environment, Director for Global Sustainable Development said:

We welcome the efforts made to tackle pollution on the global scene, both by UNEP and other partners. Pollution knows no borders and we must work together to achieve a cleaner and healthier future. We need to address pollution in a holistic way, nature-based solutions and moving to more circular economies in particular are key ways  to achieving this. Today’s Dialogue has identified further areas of cooperation on our common zero-pollution agenda.

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, UNEP, Director, Economy Division said:

Now is the time to consider how transformational change in key sectors of the economy can address the pollution crisis. UNEP and the EC will be working together and with the main stakeholders across key sectors, where opportunities to enhance economic, social and environment benefits can be harnessed in tandem.

The Zero Pollution Policy Dialogue called for an integrated and holistic approach to addressing pollution by public and private actors, with the participation of EU institutions, UNEP, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The Dialogue focused on selected areas, where follow-up and cooperation between the Commission and UNEP is seen most prospective and ready in short to medium term.

Key areas of cooperation include:

  1. Promoting multilateral cooperation;
  2. Strengthening political support and capacities to reduce air, water and marine pollution, promote the sound management of chemicals and waste and address transboundary pollution;
  3.  Spearheading a circular lifecycle approach in high-impact sectors and value chains such as transport, building and construction, food and agriculture, electronics, textiles, plastics;
  4.  Increasing cooperation on trade of potentially polluting products and waste, by promoting strategies including a “safe and sustainable by design” approach, green chemistry, “non-toxic” circularity and integrated waste management;
  5. Developing data and knowledge to help policy makers with a solid scientific basis to track progress and address pollution, to improve the quality of our air and reduce source to sea pollution, reduce health impacts, and enhance opportunities for pollution-free economies.

About the cooperation framework

In February 2021, the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed a new Annex to the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), outlining revised areas for cooperation for the period 2021-2025 This Policy Dialogue on Zero Pollution is organized as part of Chapter 5 of this Annex “Towards a Pollution-free Planet and Better Health.”

Cooperation between the European Commission and UNEP to date covers a wide range of activities, programmes and projects in areas of common concern such as biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production, including circular economy and resource efficiency, climate change, pollution, water resources, sound chemicals and waste management, environmental monitoring and assessment, strengthening environment governance at the global, regional and national levels. The EC-UNEP strategic Framework Agreements have substantially advanced the joint cooperation on these areas of joint interest.


Publication date
10 December 2021
Directorate-General for Environment

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