The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009 brought about changes to the EU’s institutional framework and decision-making processes, which impacted on its environment, energy, agricultural and maritime affairs and fisheries policies.

The EU now has its own legal personality meaning that it may conclude international agreements and become a member of international organisations. Furthermore, sustainable development is now recognised as a specific policy goal of the EU, not only internally but also in its relations with third countries. The Treaty also retains an explicit mandate for environmental policy integration.

The Treaty defines the different categories of the EU's competences as being ‘exclusive’ or ‘shared’. In areas of ‘exclusive’ competence, only the EU can legislate and adopt legally binding acts. In areas of ‘shared’ competence, both the EU and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts. Environmental policy is an area of shared competence, as is energy, transport, agriculture and fisheries policy, except for the ‘conservation of marine biological resources under the Common Fisheries Policy’ which is an exclusive competence of the EU.

The Lisbon Treaty includes an explicit reference to climate change in the definition of the EU’s environmental policy objectives, which could enhance the role and responsibility of the EU in this field, in particular with regards to international negotiations.

The Lisbon Treaty also introduces an energy chapter recognising the powers of the EU to develop an energy policy. Previously the EU had competence to adopt energy measures, but they were scattered throughout various provisions of the EC Treaty.

IEEP routinely monitors the EU's institutional development and major changes in the Treaties in relation to their consequences for environmental and environment-related policy areas.

Our work in this area includes:

An article on ‘The draft constitution for Europe: Good news for the environment?’ (2005)

Briefing to MEPs on the Environmental Implications of the EU Reform Treaty to mark the start of the ratification process on 21 January. The briefing aimed to focus the debate in the European Parliament on the environmental aspects of the Treaty