The 23rd Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean – the Barcelona Convention (Conference of Parties – COP 23) took place from 4 to 8 December 2023 in Portoroz Slovenia. in COP23 was attended by accredited representatives of the Contracting Parties (21 coastal Mediterranean countries and the European Union) and Observers, as well as representatives of accredited MAP Partners and Intergovernmental Organizations, with the ultimate aim of enhancing the protection of the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean region in the context of sustainable development.
The Ministerial Conference of the Parties convened on 7 December 2023 on “Green Transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions” resulted in the adoption of the so-called “Portoroz Ministerial Declaration”*. With the adoption of the Portoroz Declaration, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention made concrete commitments to articulate the Mediterranean region’s response to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste. Τhey further promised to make the radical changes needed to decouple economic progress from the drivers of environmental degradation and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Mediterranean region.
More specifically, the COP 23 agreed on the following important substantive decisions to protect marine ecosystems:
- three new legally binding regional plans for the prevention of water pollution from agriculture, aquaculture and urban stormwater, as well as the updated guidelines of the Dumping Protocol;
- the programme for the recovery of the Nobel Pen Shell (Pinna nobilis), an endangered endemic species of the Mediterranean Sea, whose populations have fallen dramatically in recent years;
- two updated action plans for ensuring the conservation of marine and coastal birds and preventing the introduction of invasive non-native species;
- the decision on the strict protection of six endangered shark and ray species and the partial protection of three additional species;
- the procedures for coordinated implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention in the Mediterranean;
- the framework for coordinated implementation of maritime spatial planning in the Mediterranean;
- the new Mediterranean Quality Status Report (the 2023 MED QSR), which reveals a worrying situation in the marine environment and highlights the urgency to take action;
- the decision to establish a new Regional Activity Centre for Climate Change hosted by Turkey, which was unanimously approved.
COP 23, by ensuring that the development of the blue economy does not come at the expense of nature, expressed its commitment that integrated marine spatial management and spatial planning ensure that healthy marine and coastal ecosystems support green economic progress, while providing protection to coastal communities facing increased risks and climate-induced disasters.
Moreover, on plastic pollution, the Contracting Parties agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic in the context of ongoing global negotiations on legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. There was also a commitment to the implementation of the global framework on chemicals adopted at the 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5, 25-29 September 2023), recognizing linkages and potential synergies with their obligations under the LBS Protocol to the Barcelona Convention.
In addition, COP 23 adopted the two-year Programme of Work and budget of the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) and mandated the revision of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development to boost the green transition in the region, using the SDGs as a blueprint and science as a foundation for action. In parallel, on 7 December UNEP/MAP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). In fact, the MoU is expected to enhance cooperation to protect several whale and dolphin species facing threats such as noise, bycatch and depredation, pollution, collisions with vessels and the unfolding impacts of climate change.
At COP23 Ms. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP highlighted: “The green transition can harness rapid progress in science and technology, improvements in governance frameworks and growing public awareness. At the same time, nature-based solutions must be put front and centre. And, as not every Mediterranean country has the same financial or technological resources, regional cooperation will be essential”. In the same vein, Mrs. Tatjana Hema, the UNEP/MAP Coordinator said: “We need a surge in implementation at the national level. Together, we can turn decisions into impactful action that delivers Good Environmental Status and fulfills the objectives for which UNEP/MAP saw the light of day 50 years ago, giving the Mediterranean one of the strongest regional regulatory frameworks in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development.”
*For more information see: https://cop23-slovenia.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/23ig26_L3_eng_portoroz-ministerial-declaration.pdf
Sources: UNEP/MAP, PLAN BLEU
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About the author
MEPIELAN Centre is an international research, training and educational centre established by Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos at the Panteion University of Athens in 2008.
Before its establishment as a University Centre, MEPIELAN operated as a successful international research, training and informational programme (2002-2007) under the scientific direction of Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos and the aegis of the Panteion University of Athens, supported by the Mediterranean Action Plan/UNEP and the Greek Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works.
MEPIELAN Centre is an accredited UNEP/MAP PARTNER (since 2013), a Member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) (since 2016), and a Member of the Steering Committee of the MCSD (since 2019).
On 22 May 2022, MEPIELAN Centre proceeded to the development of MEPIELAN as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) for the more effective and efficient advancement of its Goals and Missions and furtherance of its activities. MEPIELAN Centre as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) is registered in Greek Law (Hellenic Business Registry, Reg. No. 16477300100) in accordance with Laws 4072/2012 & 4919/2022 as applicable