The Secretary General of MedCities, Mr. Josep Canals, attended this event, organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, presented environmental and developmental challenges faced by the Mediterranean region. In the run-up to the 22nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) in December 2021, this event also discussed the opportunity for the Contracting Parties to “flick the green switch” for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future in the basin.

Two recent reports sponsored by the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan – Barcelona Convention (UNEP/MAP) system — the State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED), produced by Plan Bleu, and the First Mediterranean Assessment Report (MAR 1) released by the network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC) — shed new light on the hefty toll that the global triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution is taking on Mediterranean ecosystems.

According to the ‘twin reports’, the Mediterranean region is not on track to achieve the SDGs, confirming the urgency of a green renaissance in the post-COVID era. But a recent analysis of spending by the world’s leading economies, led by the University of Oxford and UNEP, concluded that only 18% of announced recovery spending can be considered green.

The panel discussion, which included a Q&A session, offered insights into the levers of transformative change that decision-makers can use to make peace with nature in the Mediterranean. As it prepares for the 22nd Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP 22) (December 2021, Antalya, Turkey), UNEP/MAP presented examples of its work on setting the green renaissance in motion.

 

During the event, speakers gave their opinion about nowadays situation and proposed some guideliness to take follow steps. 

For instance, Bruno Pocci from UNEP underlined that nature and the solutions it provides are a priority area, especially in the Mediterranean region, which has historically featured one of the most human dominated landscape in the world. Applying nature-based solutions to ensure ecological connectivity, to restore depleted ecosystems and build resilience to climate change is crucial. The Mediterranean basin is one of the hotspots for biodiversity in the world. However, its ecosystems are threatened by pollution and ecosystem degradation, which often start kilometres away from the river deltas that make the Mediterranean Sea.

They activities undertaken under the Barcelona Convention and Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) are therefore indispensable to protect both the land-based and marine environments of the Mediterranean Sea. The UNEP Europe Office is proud to support these activities and give them an echo in International Geneva, where many other stakeholders are also convinced that nature is an ally to combat climate change, to prevent further zoonoses outbreak, to secure lives supporting ecosystem, and to support societal transition from a linear to circular economy with less pollution.

From his side, Gaetano Leone from UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention said aking the pulse of the Mediterranean through rigorous monitoring has been one of the core functions of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention since its beginning almost five decades ago. With more than 512 million inhabitants, the region is experiencing acute symptoms of the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. These symptoms are now compounded by the pandemic, which presents great challenges but also opportunities.

The figures reveal many worrying trends. Around 730 tons of plastic waste arrive the sea everyday. In 2016, more than 220’000 people died prematurely due to air pollution. Experts have recorded 1’000 non-indigenous invasive species. Crop productivity is expected to decrease by 20% by 2080 in the region. The Mediterranean is also a hotspot for climate change, with warming occurring 20% faster than the global average. Science has spoken and its findings confirm the urgency of taking action to address these crises.

This science is now encapsulated in the “twin reports”: the State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED), produced by Plan Bleu, and the First Mediterranean Assessment Report (MAR 1) released by the network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC). As the most comprehensive regional assessment of its kind in a decade, the SoED shows that the Mediterranean is not on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and warns that relentless pressure on ecosystems from economic sectors will lead to irreversible environmental damage. Meanwhile, the MAR 1 report points to far-reaching environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change in the region.

Lina Tode, from Plan Bleu, referred to the SOED report main results wich clearly shows how the Mediterranean accumulates unique and vulnerable resources that are increasingly under pressure. The region is a biodiversity hotspot with the highest rate of endemic species in the world, and a cultural hotspot with 191 Unesco World Heritage Sites. At the same time, population concentration is a growing pressure, with 70% of the Mediterranean population living in cities and one third in the coastal zones. This situation is further exacerbated by intense tourist flows. The Mediterranean is also one of the world busiest shipping lanes, facing issues of air and water pollution, underwater noise, etc.

Climate change further exacerbates this situation and its effects are already visible today. The MAR 1 report, developed in close coordination with the SoED report, shows that the air in the Mediterranean has already warmed by 1.5°C, while seawater temperature has increased by 0.4°C. By the end of the century, the sea level would rise up to 2.5m, putting at risk more than 20 million people. Many coastal cultural heritage sites are at risk of flooding and erosion due to sea level rise.

After a Q&A session where speakers could answers deeper questions, there was time for a conclusions. The speakers agreed on that now is time to reinforce the regional institutions and pollical frameworks. At COP22 of the Barcelona Convention, we will be discussing the new post-2021 Strategic Action Programme for the conservation of Biological Diversity (SAP-BIO). This important programme will identify needs, priorities, synergies for the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean. To start reversing the current tendencies, we also need to reinforce the solutions starting at the local level and promote outreach activities aimed at fishermen, marine recreational businesses, sailors, and young people, which can be the champions of this transformative change.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2021 in Marseille will also be a key milestone for nature conservation and the development of a new global framework for biodiversity. At this meeting, scientists, policy experts, business leaders and professionals from around the globe will discuss how to get nature right and how to achieve the SDGs and the climate change targets. A key topic will be how to ensure that nature is part of the economic recovery to address the impacts of this pandemic. In that regard, IUCN supports a proposal for a Nature-based Recovery initiative which aims to ensure that at least 10% of overall investments in stimulus packages are channeled towards nature, Nature-based Solutions and other interventions that add value to nature. We hope to build together this momentum for transformative action to address one of the major crises of our planet by maintaining nature and ecosystems.

Get to know more about the conference here.

 

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