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Methodology for assessing the impacts of trade agreements on biodiversity and ecosystems

AUTHORS: Marianne Kettunen – Eline Blot – Kym Whiteoak (Trinomics) – Joris Moerenhout (Trinomics) – Pavla Cihlarova (Trinomics) – Ziga Malek (IVM) – Onno Kuik (IVM) – Katherine Despot-Belmonte (UNEP-WCMC) – Emma Martin (UNEP-WCMC)

This guidance document provides a methodological framework for assessing the impact of EU free trade agreements on biodiversity and ecosystems.

Trade liberalisation introduces changes to economic sectors, increasing or decreasing demand – and therefore production – in trade partner countries. These changes can have an impact on biodiversity, ecosystems and the services they provide.

Consequently, biodiversity impacts of EU free trade agreements (FTAs) need to be systematically identified. At minimum, these impacts should be assessed in a qualitative manner, using existing case studies, expert knowledge and stakeholder interviews. For the most significant biodiversity impacts, quantified analysis should be carried out whenever possible.

This document provides a dedicated methodological framework for assessing the impact of EU Free Trade Agreements on biodiversity in a structured and consistent manner, with a view to improve the transparency and robustness of the assessment. 

The methodology underpins the delivery of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, in particular the commitment for the Commission to ‘better assess the impact of trade agreements on biodiversity, with follow-up action to strengthen the biodiversity provisions of existing and new agreements if relevant.’ This commitment has been explicitly endorsed by the Member States, as part of the Council Conclusions in 2020.

The methodology is foreseen to be used as part of the Commission’s overall trade impact assessment process and it is applicable to ex-ante and ex-post evaluations alike. It is flexible to be used in the context of all types of trade agreements and with different trade partner countries. Furthermore, the overall approach could also easily be generalised and applied to the assessment of a broader range of environmental impacts of FTAs.

The guidance document is made available on the European Commission site.

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