GT12 – Make-or-break: Including multilateral environmental agreements as “essential elements” in EU free trade agreements

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are a critical tool for aligning the EU’s trade and environmental agendas. FTAs can encourage the ratification and implementation of commitments made under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). To address limitations of existing MEA references in FTAs, momentum is building in the EU to elevate MEA provisions to the status of “essential element” clauses. The EU’s commitment to turning the Paris Agreement into an essential part of its FTAs represents a significant step towards better aligning environmental and trade objectives in FTAs. This policy paper explores the origin of essential element clauses and the rationale of applying them to MEAs. It develops parameters to assess what other MEAs could appropriately be considered essential elements of future EU FTAs. Finally, it explores, with an emphasis on the Paris Agreement, how to operationalize essential provisions in MEAs by distilling provisions that set out the “essence” of the MEA.

Link to the publication