“Why do we need an improved science-policy interface? The world is increasingly faced with environmental challenges which are exacerbated by an absence of coordination among different actors around the globe. In a global political context where scientific evidence is not often understood or used by policy-makers, there is a growing disconnect that has emerged, which not only dismisses, but excludes opportunities for collaboration. Science and policy are at a crossroads. The interface needs to be framed by an effective and efficient governance structure to promote better interaction between the two. This intersection can be facilitated by operational knowledge from non-state actors. A dynamic science-policy interface can be a core instrument to support well informed decision making on the environment while also engaging the right actors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” (UN Environment, 2017).
- In order to monitor and assess the trends in the level of pollutants and the biological effects of contaminants in the Mediterranean Sea and coast, as well as to implement appropriate pollution reduction measures, the MAP system mobilizes and strengthen a network of scientific experts to assists the 22 Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention via the Programme for the Assessment and Control of Marine Pollution in the Mediterranean (MED POL).
- Marine and coastal pollution assessment and control is based on a variety of policy and scientific tools, e.g. monitoring, capacity building, assessments, elaboration of control measures, etc., that are successfully implemented from 1975 until now. Furthermore, Decision IG.22/7 adopted by the Contracting Parties at their 19th Ordinary Meeting (COP 19) to gradually apply the ecosystem approach to achieve the ecological vision for the Mediterranean implied introduction of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast (IMAP). The aim of IMAP is to apply a holistic approach for the monitoring and the assessment of human impacts on the marine and coastal environment. In turn, it brought new perspectives and challenges, including even more demanding needs for SPI, preparation of scientific publications to support implementation of policy measures (e.g. papers to address emerging chemicals impacts on marine ecosystem components, including biological effects, ocean acidification and adaptation to climate changes, etc.), sharing of knowledge on IMAP best practices implementation through SPI, etc.
- In parallel of the adoption at the global level of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) created in 1995 has been reformed to include the Scientific Community Group. The MCSD is the advisory body that assists the Contracting Parties in their efforts to integrate environmental issues in their socioeconomic programmes and, in so doing, promote sustainable development policies in the Mediterranean region. Acting as a forum for experiences sharing, the MCSD is unique in its composition, in as much as government representatives, local communities, socioeconomic actors, IGOs, NGOs, scientists and Parliamentarians participate on an equal footing.
- The UN Environment/MAP – Barcelona Convention Secretariat cooperates with other international bodies, including the FAO-General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), including provisions on data sharing and scientific cooperation, have been signed with the Secretariats of these bodies. These partnerships provide guarantees for SPIs, ensuring top-quality expert opinions. Of key importance is the MoU with GFCM, under which cross-sectoral cooperation is ongoing to jointly enhance interagency coordination in areas of common interest, including building capacity in marine science.
- The European Union (EU) makes a substantial contribution to policy-oriented research projects on assessing the status of marine and coastal environment in the Mediterranean, as well as supporting innovative and scientifically based approach to control and reduce impacts of human activities to marine environment. Numerous projects, to which UN Environment/MAP is a key partner, have been funded by the EU and most have components that make them SPIs.
- The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is also placing a special interest in the science-policy interface. It provides support to projects addressing specific environmental issues, inter alia, aiming to reach a science-based consensus among countries on the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Mediterranean region and sub-regions, such as the Adriatic Sea.
- At COP 20 in December 2017, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols welcomed the MED2050 Roadmap towards a Foresight Study on the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean. Planned to be carried out during two biennia (2018-2019 and 2020-2021), MED2050 is conceived as an original SPI that will involve both experts/scientists and decision-makers/stakeholders following a participatory approach to generate contrasted visions across the Mediterranean. MED2050 will provide valuable information on future developments based on science-based scenarios and on anticipating actions to promote sustainable development in the Mediterranean region. MED2050 will capitalize on previous and on-going studies, including the SoED 2019 and MED QSR, while reinforcing dissemination, communication and capacity building.
- As climate change is a preeminent driver of current and future trends in the region, UN Environment/MAP relies on a close partnership with the “Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change” (MedECC). MedECC (www.medecc.org) is an important regional initiative that supports several aspects of the MAP work on assessment of human-made and natural pressures and impacts on the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean. This network of scientific experts aims at gathering, updating and consolidating the best scientific knowledge about climate change in the Mediterranean basin and rendering it accessible to policymakers, key stakeholders and citizens. To date, MedECC counts more than 400 scientific members from 35 countries, including 19 Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention. This Mediterranean initiative has an important role to play in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as it contributes to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) with a cross-chapter dedicated for the first time to the Mediterranean. MedECC also contributes to the implementation of the MSSD that identifies, under its Objective 4 “Addressing Climate Change as a Priority Issue for the Mediterranean”, the establishment, as a regional Flagship Initiative, of “a regional science-policy interface mechanism (…) with a view to preparing consolidated regional scientific assessments and guidance on climate change trends, impacts and adaptation and mitigation options”. MedECC voluntarily contributes to the preparation of the SoED 2019, by co-leading the chapter on Climate Change, and MedECC’s analyses of trends of climate change and associated risks and impacts will also support the drafting of the MED2050 foresight study.
- Since the adoption of the Reform of the MCSD in February 2016, the three Members of the MCSD under the Scientific Community Group are the following: the Forum Euro-Mediterraneen des Instituts de Sciences Economiques (FEMISE – Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences), the Mediterranean Programme for International Environmental Law and Negotiation (MEPIELAN) and the Mediterranean Sustainable Development Solutions Network (Med-SDSN);
- IDDRI – AFD, 2017. A Planet for Life – Basing public policy on science and knowledge. Paris, France.
- MedECC, 2018. A preliminary assessment of risk associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region. Marseille, France.
- Plan Bleu, 2018. Science-Policy Interfaces for Environmental Governance in the Mediterranean. Notes No 35. Sophia-Antipolis, France.
- United Nations Environment Programme, 2009. Gap analysis for the purpose of facilitating the discussions on how to improve and strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. UNEP/IPBES/2/INF/1. Nairobi, Kenya.
- United Nations Environment Programme, 2017. Strengthening the Science-policy Interface: A Gap Analysis. Nairobi, Kenya.
About the author
Scientific Expert, Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Greece, Collaborator, MEPIELAN Centre
Julien Le Tellier
Socio-Economic Affairs Programme Officer, UN Environment/MAP