Multiple Red Flags

The COVID-19 pandemic was already in full swing when two reports backed by the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system brought new insights into the extent and impact of the triple crisis of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss in the Mediterranean.
The State of the Environment and Development (SoED) report, produced by Plan Bleu, a UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre, indicates that the Mediterranean is not on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and warns that biodiversity loss, the growing impact of climate change and unrelenting pressure on ecosystems from economic sectors can lead to irreversible environmental damage in the basin.

The Mediterranean Blueprint

There is no need to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. Under the Barcelona Convention, the Contracting Parties have signed up to a substantial development of the normative framework on biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean. In addition to the SPA/BD Protocol, they have adopted more than twenty strategies, action plans and regulatory measures—several of which are legally binding—covering threatened species of fauna and flora as well as key natural habitats.
Developed by SPA/RAC, the Regional Activity Centre of UNEP/MAP working on biodiversity and specially protected areas, these instruments are aligned with global commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Understand to Protect

Before developing strategies, action plans and other conservation measures, it is essential to understand nature. Collecting data on marine and coastal ecosystems and processes, in an integrated methodical manner and according to harmonized standards, is a prerequisite to achieving and maintaining Good Environmental Status.
Since the adoption of the Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) roadmap in 2008, several initiatives have been undertaken to mainstream the implementation of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP) in the Mediterranean.

Nature-Based Solutions for MCPAs

Last year, Plan Bleu, the France-based Regional Activity Centre of UNEP/MAP, published a policy paper titled “Enhancing the Mediterranean’s climate resilience through Nature-based Solutions”. The document explores ways in which nature-based solutions can be harnessed to enhance climate resilience by building on the services and resources provided by ecosystems and biodiversity.
Nature-based solutions are at the heart of many of the instruments developed under the Barcelona Convention. Take Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs); by offering nature a respite in these spaces, humans let it do what it does best: self-healing.
MCPAs offer nature-based Solutions to support climate change adaptation and mitigation. By preserving marine biodiversity, MCPAs strengthen the resilience of marine ecosystems to global warming and other stressors.

Lesson learned: Enforcement Works

Established in 1991, the MPA of Torre Guaceto covers an area of 2.227 hectares along the Adriatic coast of Italy. The first protection measures date back to 1970, but legislative action for the protection of the area started in earnest in 1981 with the declaration of Torre Guaceto as a “Wetland of International Interest” under the Ramsar Convention.
Six years later, WWF Italy carried out the feasibility plan for the establishment of a marine reserve, which became a reality on 4 December 1991 by virtue of a ministerial decree.