Commission and UN Environment Programme agree to reinforce cooperation in tackling the crises in climate, biodiversity and pollution

A stronger focus on the promotion of circular economy, the protection of biodiversity and the fight against pollution lie at the heart of a new agreement signed on 26 February 2021 for enhanced cooperation between the European Commission (EC) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Both partners are also paying increasing attention to nature protection and restoration as one of the solutions to tackle such advancing crises.

In a virtual session, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius and UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen signed a new Annex to the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between the EC and UNEP, outlining revised areas for cooperation for the period 2021-2025.

Commissioner Sinkevičius said:

We welcome the opportunity to step up engagement with the UN Environment Programme on the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, helping us to build a healthier and more resilient society in a post-pandemic world. This is a new phase of cooperation that will help us to implement the European Green Deal and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, but also to form a strong alliance ahead of crucial summits for the future of mankind, which are to take place later in the year.

Inger Anderson said:

UNEP looks forward to collaborating further with the EU and its member states, as well as within the UN system, to achieve the green and digital transition on a global scale across all segments of society. Keeping our sights on the Sustainable Development Goals, we will support Member States as we strive together for an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

The signing of this document is very timely. It takes place following the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA5) meeting last week and the launch of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resources Efficiency (GACERE), while the global community seeks to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and the pressing climate, resource and biodiversity emergencies. The partners look to reinforce existing synergies and introduce fresh areas of action in light of developments in the global environmental agenda, including the European Green Deal.

 The five chapters identify how to:

1. Improve the science-policy interface and international environmental governance

2. Enhance climate resilience and climate neutrality with a focus on sustainable energy

3. Promote healthy and productive ecosystems

4. Scale up the circular economy and resource efficiency

5. Work towards a pollution-free planet and better health  

It builds on, and looks to extend, the existing close collaboration to address the environmental challenges and advance the sustainability agenda through the EC-UNEP strategic Framework Agreements and programmatic cooperation.

The partners underscore the need to mobilise all areas of society to achieve a green-digital transition towards a sustainable future.


The new Annex signed today falls under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from April 2014, which lays the basis for strengthened cooperation between the two partners at global and regional levels.

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, water resources, sound chemicals and waste management, environmental monitoring and assessment, strengthening environment governance at the global, regional and national levels. Support has been given to both UNEP directly and to the budgets of Multilateral Environmental Agreements for which UNEP provides the secretariat.

More information

Commission Decision to adopt Annex

Annex (EC Communication)