MEDNEWS 01/2022

Editorial.jpg Reflections in the aftermath of a memorable COP of the Barcelona Convention

By Tatjana Hema, UNEP/MAP Coordinator

It has already been five months since the 22nd Meeting (COP 22) of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols held in the coastal city of Antalya, Turkey.

This was a monumental “COP for the Mediterranean”: it marked 45 years of constructive and forward-looking regional collaboration and solidarity under the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system and delivered a package of action-oriented decisions to protect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment and bolster sustainable development.

I am grateful to our host country, Turkey, and the Contracting Parties’ representatives who made COP 22 happen despite the challenges linked to COVID-19 and, above all, for reaching concrete agreement on key decisions of major importance to MAP and the region. We look forward to the adoption of the Contracting Parties’ decision on the Designation of the Mediterranean Sea, as a whole, as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides (MED SOx ECA) pursuant to MARPOL Annex VI by the relevant IMO bodies. This represents without any doubt a groundbreaking achievement we should all be proud of. Its implementation is expected to generate significant benefits for human health and for the integrity of ecosystems, which both suffer from harmful SOx emissions from the maritime transport sector, one of the pillars of the blue economy in the Mediterranean.  

On biodiversity, COP 22 adopted the Post-2020 Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Mediterranean Region (Post-2020 SAPBIO). This achievement was complemented with agreement on a Post-2020 Regional Strategy for protecting and conserving the Mediterranean through well connected and effective systems of marine and coastal protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. On 20 May 2022 I will attend a high-level regional event co-organized by SPA/RAC and our partners in Monaco to mark the first edition of SPAMI Day (15 April).

Other decisions that were introduced in Antalya take aim at land- and sea-based pollution, including plastic. The Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management was substantively updated to streamline and apply circular economy principles with a focus on plastic and microplastic pollution. By adopting the updated Plan at COP 22, the representatives of 21 Mediterranean countries and the EU had sent an encouraging signal ahead of the resumed session of UNEA 5, which eventually reached a historic resolution regarding the set-up of a global treaty on plastics.

COP 22 also adopted ambitious legally binding measures and timeframes for their implementation to prevent marine pollution from wastewater and sludge generated from the operation of wastewater treatment plants with the ultimate objective to minimize pollution form these sources, achieve good environmental status and enhance the environmental performance of the management of these important sectors in the region.

The Contracting Parties also adopted a set of regional measures to support the development of green businesses and to ratchet up demand for more sustainable products. These measures will, I am sure, trickle down to many sectors of the Mediterranean economies as they pivot towards circularity.

To cap it all, COP 22 adopted the the Medium-Term Strategy (MTS - 2022-2027) that aims to achieve transformational change and contribute to bend current trajectories. The effective implementation of the Strategy will situate our region on a path of sustainability. The Antalya Declaration brings a strong expression of political support to this collective endeavour.

What COP 22 delivered is substantial. Ensuring that decisions are translated into action remains our priority as the proud custodians of the multilateral process that has delivered the Barcelona Convention in 1976 and the unique legal, institutional and implementation framework that the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system constitutes.  

The next few months will see major meetings on the global environment and sustainable development taking place with crucial agendas and much at stake. We at UNEP/MAP are working with our Contracting Parties and partners to ensure an adequate presence for the Mediterranean. This region has so much to offer in terms of achievements and lessons learned but is also capable to absorb best practices from elsewhere  

As I told UNEP colleagues in this Q&A on the legacy of the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment, my wish is that the Stockholm+50  conference (to be held on 4-5 June in the Swedish capital) will give new impetus to multilateralism and solidarity, strengthen the implementation of commitments and galvanize multi-stakeholder cooperation to address the triple planetary crisis. We can no longer afford to work in silos or compete for resources. At the national level, we need everyone to contribute, including the private sector which must be at the forefront of the collective endeavor for sustainability and resilience. It is time for implementation on the ground to deliver on commitments.