• Mission4Nature

COP23: Green transition in the Mediterranean – from decisions to action


Between the 4th and 8th of December the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the Barcelona Convention met in Portorož, Slovenia. The main objectives of the Convention are to assess and control marine pollution; ensure sustainable management of natural marine and coastal resources; integrate the environment in social and economic development; protect the marine environment and coastal zones through prevention and reduction of pollution and, as far as possible, elimination of pollution, whether land- or sea-based; protect the natural and cultural heritage; strengthen solidarity among Mediterranean coastal States; and contribute to improvement of the quality of life. Bearing in mind these objectives four key outputs were agreed:
• The approval of increased protection on 6 species of endangered sharks and rays, which will feature in the recommendations of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and potentially lead to a catch ban under the Convention for Migratory Species.
• The agreement on the establishment of a new Regional Activity Centre on Climate Change in Türkiye.
• The adoption of 3 new regional plans to improve sustainability of aquaculture and agriculture and the management of stormwater.
• The discussion over the Quality Status Report for the Mediterranean Sea, which shows significant gaps in the region.
The Portorož Ministerial Declaration committed the contracting parties to halt the degradation of marine and coastal biodiversity through the implementation of the Mediterranean post-2020 SAPBIO; advance decarbonization; ensure the effective and timely implementation of the regional legally binding measures adopted under the Land-Based Sources and Activities Protocol of the Barcelona Convention; address plastic pollution including through the promotion of circular approaches and the reduction of single-use plastics; make every effort to ensure that by 2030 at least 30% of coastal and marine areas are effectively conserved and managed; and involve youth in environmental issues and decision-making processes innovatively.

This year COP23 convened concurrently with the UN Climate Change Convention in Dubai. It also met for the first time since the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), and against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations on a new international treaty to address plastic pollution.

As such, the objectives of the Euro-MED Interreg Natural Heritage Mission project are directly applicable to the work undertaken at COP23. The Mission was represented at various sessions, including the plenary and side-events throughout the duration of the COP23 by project partners of the Mission’s governance project – Dialogue for Nature.

The Ministry of Tourism, Ecology, Sustainable Development and Northern Region Development of Montenegro are Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. The Ministry was engaged in the main outcome of the meeting which was the Portorož Ministerial Declaration. In addition, the Contracting Parties elected Montenegro as a member of the Bureau, from among the representatives of the Contracting Parties.

Plan Bleu organised a side event on 7th December on Ecosystem Restoration and Biodiversity loss, presenting the results of the H2020 WaterLANDS project related to governance conditions for successful wetland restoration in Europe. During this side event, the Natural Heritage Mission and governance project Dialogue for Nature was mentioned with regards to the launch of the thematic Working Groups. Plan Bleu invited the audience composed of decision makers, NGOs, universities, and research centres to join Working Group 4, which will address the policy and governance gaps for large-scale ecosystem restoration to mitigate the impacts of climate change and restore biodiversity levels.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) actively engaged in various initiatives. One noteworthy achievement was the successful 30×30 event, where the IUCN Act30 initiative for the Mediterranean region was launched, alongside the promotion of the Greenlist4 Med MPAs project, emphasizing protected areas (PAs) management effectiveness. The IUCN also engaged in discussions around the 30×30 goal and the coverage of area-based protection measures in the Mediterranean marine domain, revealing a concentration of 97% in the North. Notably, the debate on Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) drew attention. The IUCN emphasized the importance of participating in these discussions, promoting the Mission’s governance project Dialogue for Nature and its Working Groups, as an new platform to facilitate these discussions.

The Marine Institute participated in a range of discussions at the side events that were ongoing during the lunch sessions and evening sessions of the COP23. In particular, discussions around the application of the global biodiversity framework within the Mediterranean, in context of Working Group 1 of the Mission’s governance project Dialogue for Nature, and discussions with representatives from the MedFund regarding funding biodiversity conservation in the context of Working Group 3. In addition, the Mediterranean Resilience Network concept was discussed with other participants and stakeholders, to encourage engagement and cooperation.

We are excited to continue the journey of environmental advocacy, collaboration, and sustainable practices for the Mediterranean.