MEDNEWS 03/2021


By Tatjana Hema, Coordinator, UNEP/MAP

The 22nd Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols (COP 22) will be held in Antalya, Turkey, from 7-10 December 2021. The theme of the Ministerial Session, which will take place on 9 December, is “Towards a Blue Mediterranean: leaving a pollution-free legacy, protecting biodiversity and sustaining climate stability”.

The meetings of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, held every two years, constitute the principal gathering on environment and sustainable development in our region. COP 22 will be special. First, it will be the first physical meeting of the Contracting Parties since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It will also mark the 45th anniversary of the Barcelona Convention, born in 1976 in the framework of UNEP/MAP.

I travelled in September to Antalya where I met Professor Mehmet Amin Birpinar, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Urbanization of Turkey, and other colleagues from the Host Country working hard to make COP 22 a success.  Professor Birpinar agrees that COP 22 will be a special meeting. He noted the importance of the decisions that will be examined, and which have the potential to mark a turning point for the region, especially after COVID.

Professor Birpinar has a point. The meeting of the Contracting Parties in Antalya will serve as the “COP for the Mediterranean” as it will take place in the aftermath of the first part of the COP 15 Biodiversity Conference and shortly after the COP 26 Climate Change conference. This will allow the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system to take stock of the latest round of global negotiations and chart a course for an informed regional response to the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Several draft decisions that the Contracting Parties will examine in Antalya can help the region tackle the intertwined impacts of the global environmental crises while boosting efforts for a post-COVID green recovery in the Mediterranean.

An ambitious UNEP/MAP Medium-term Strategy (MTS) for 2022-2027 will be considered for adoption, along with the post-2020 Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (Post-2020 SAPBIO). The post-2020 SAPBIO is an integrated blueprint for biodiversity conservation that considers the forthcoming Global Biodiversity Framework and focuses attention and efforts on priorities outlined through regional consultations as part of an inclusive process driven by UNEP/MAP and guided by science. This will be complemented by a strategic document on marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs).
As they renew their resolve to combat pollution, the Contracting Parties will pore over the possible designation of the Mediterranean Sea, as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides (MED SOx ECA) pursuant to the MARPOL Convention (Annex VI). They will also consider three new or updated legally binding measures (assorted with timetables for their implementation) to address marine litter prevention, wastewater and wastewater treatment plant-related sludge management based on strict environmental standards and circular economy principles. Greening the shipping sector as part of a sustainable blue economy will be on the COP 22 agenda with two proposed strategies on pollution from ships and ballast water management. This push against pollution is complemented by a draft decision to support to green and circular businesses.

In Antalya, we will renew our call for an enhanced implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols at the national level, which remains the shortest path to healthy and productive marine and costal ecosystems that underpin the achievement of the SDGs as part of a green recovery in the Mediterranean.