January 7, 2020

Barcelona Convention COP Steps up Action for a Sustainable Mediterranean

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Ana Maria Lebada

At the 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (the Barcelona Convention) and its Protocols (COP 21), governments adopted the Naples Ministerial Declaration, committing to, inter alia, address marine litter, strengthen and expand the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network, respond to climate change, and support the blue economy and a regional ecological transition.

The Barcelona Convention COP 21 took place from 2-5 December 2019, at the Castel dell’Ovo in Naples, Italy. Over 200 participants from the 22 Contracting Parties as well as representatives from UN agencies, international research organizations, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and civil society attended the four-day event.

Through the Naples Ministerial Declaration, Parties also committed to develop trans-disciplinary research and inter-sectoral policies to address climate change through a cross-cutting approach, particularly with regard to the water-food-energy nexus.

Aside of the Ministerial Declaration, some of the thematic decisions adopted at COP 21 included:

  • the common regional framework for integrated coastal zone management;
  • Mediterranean offshore guidelines and standards;
  • updated guidelines regulating the placement of artificial reefs at sea;
  • governance;
  • identification and conservation of sites of particular ecological interest in the Mediterranean; and
  • a road map for the possible designation of the Mediterranean Sea area as an emission control area for sulphur oxides pursuant to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, annex VI, within the framework of the Barcelona Convention.

During a ministerial session, Joyce Msuya, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), remarked that a recently concluded study found that there are about 62 million individual pieces of marine litter floating in the Mediterranean Sea, adding that progress on improving the marine environment in the Mediterranean region can serve as a powerful driving force towards achieving the SDGs.

In a video message, Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, echoed the need to address the “plastic plague,” explaining that plastic has permeated the food chain to the point where we are “eating the consequences.” Gaetano Leone, UNEP, noted that the Barcelona Convention must be central to the events taking place during 2020, as the “super year” for the global development and biodiversity agendas.

In a High-Level Panel Discussion on Protecting the Marine Environment and Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, Gavin Edwards, Global Coordinator, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), called out the challenge of moving MPAs from ‘paper parks’ to areas of enforcement. He reiterated that 2020 will be a “super year” of opportunity for the planet given the second UN Ocean Conference and the negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, adding that many sectors, including business and finance, are increasingly taking biodiversity and climate protection “more seriously.”

During the high-level discussion, delegates further highlighted the need to, inter alia: not scare people about the current climate situation but instead instill optimism; not underestimate the climate challenge; and to scale up efforts and restore science and evidence-based policies to increase confidence.