MedCities attended the COP 23 session focused on the “Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions”— a theme articulated by the Bureau of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. The session featured statements by the heads of delegations of the Contracting Parties and Observer organizations and culminated in the adoption of the Portoroz Ministerial Declaration.

Also, MedCities membre Genoa, was the 2023 winner Edition of the Istanbul Environment Friendly City Award. Mr Mario Mascia, Councilor, City of Genoa accepting the ‘Istanbul Environment Friently City Award’  received the Award during the Ministerial Session and he was congratulated by MedCities Secretary General, Mr. Josep Canals. MedCities supported UNEP/MAP with the implementation of the Istanbul award, ensuring dissemination of this key activity among its members, supporting interested cities in their applications, coordinating the assessment work carried out by the experts and ensuring the logistic participation of the winning city in the award ceremony.

The 23rd Meeting (COP23) of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, took place on 5-8 December 2023 in Portoroz adopted important steps to protect ecosystems in the face of the rising impacts of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

From MedCities side, Secretary-General Mr. Josep Canals stressed that: “It would be important that local authorities voices could be present and taken into account in the final declaration of Portoroz. That would be really important that local authorities are essential for the implementation of the protocols, and the 2030 Agenda SDGs – 60% of them-. To help local voices be included in the final Declaration, MedCities offers to the UNEP-MAP secretariat to be a preferred partner via a MoU, to become a facilitator in the implementation of policies and the Mediterranean sustainable development strategy. These topics can be articulated through the MedUrbanTools resource website and the importance of the Istanbul Prize celebration”.

As far as the Ministerial Session is concerned, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia opened the Ministerial Session highlighting nature conservation in the Mediterranean as a priority for the Slovenian presidency of the Barcelona Convention during the 2024-2025 biennium. “Do not be afraid of pushing the topic in your own country; this is one of the topics where all efforts are needed. So, no matter the obstacles, keep pushing.

In the Portoroz Ministerial Declaration, the Contracting Parties (21 countries and the European Union) vow to undertake the required radical shifts to decouple economic progress from the drivers of environmental degradation, and to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Mediterranean region.

By her side, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP said: “The green transition can harness rapid progress in science and technology, improvements in governance frameworks, and growing public awareness. At the same time, nature-based solutions must be put front and center. And, as not every Mediterranean country has the same financial or technological resources, regional cooperation will be essential”.

COP 23 adopted the two-year Programme of Work and budget of the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP). It mandated the revision of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development to boost the green transition in the region, using the SDGs as a blueprint and science as a foundation for action.

We need a surge in implementation at the national level. Together, we can turn decisions into impactful action that delivers Good Environmental Status and fulfills the objectives for which UNEP/MAP saw the light of day 50 years ago, giving the Mediterranean one of the strongest regional regulatory frameworks in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development,” Tatjana Hema, the UNEP/MAP Coordinator said.

The Contracting Parties made progress in articulating the Mediterranean region’s response to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste.

MedCities is working on some projects that are focused on biodiversity and coastal areas protection as well as water and waste management, so it was useful and interesting to be present when in the Portoroz Ministerial Declaration, the Contracting Parties commit to making every effort to ensure that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of coastal and marine areas are effectively conserved and managed. They also renewed the commitment to halt the degradation of marine and coastal biodiversity through the effective implementation of the Mediterranean region’s post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

Also, COP23 adopted decisions on the conservation of endangered and threatened marine species under the Specially Protected Areas and Biodiversity (SPA/BD) Protocol, extending protection to six additional species of sharks and rays, having management measures for three species of ray, restoring the Pinna nobilis, and on strengthening the existing network of Specially Protected Areas and Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs).

New legally binding, time-bound Regional Plans on agriculture, aquaculture, and urban stormwater management and related regulatory measures were adopted in the framework of the Land-Based Sources (LBS) Protocol to the Barcelona Convention. On plastic pollution, the Contracting Parties agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic in the context of ongoing global negotiations on legally binding instruments on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

For a wider framework, you can go back and read here the Six takeaways from the 2023 MAP Focal Points meeting in Istanbul in September 2023

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