The 20th meeting of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD), established under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP), took place in Marseille (France) from 14-16 June 2023. The MCSD aims to assist the contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention in their efforts to integrate and promote sustainable development policies in the Mediterranean region. It brings together representatives of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, local authorities, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, parliamentarians and the science community. During the three days of deliberations participants examined the region’s progress towards sustainable development.
MedECC materializes a regional Flagship Initiative of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD) 2016-2025, that identifies, under the Objective 4 “Addressing Climate Change as a Priority Issue for the Mediterranean”, the establishment 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”. This objective feeds into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13 “Climate Action”. During the review of the flagship initiatives, Joël Guiot, Co-coordinator of MedECC highlighted efforts to disseminate the findings of the first Mediterranean Assessment Report, and presented the ongoing production of three special reports on costal risks, climate-WEFE nexus, and environmental change, conficts and human migration.
Speaking on behalf of France, which succeeds Slovenia in assuming the presidency of the MCSD for a two-year mandate, H.E. Hervé Berville, State Secretary for the Sea, delivered the welcome address, and announced three priorities: biodiversity protection, including the protection of 100 per cent of Mediterranean Posidonia meadows by 2030; integrated marine planning, including the set-up of a dedicated working group linked to UNEP/MAP; and strengthened scientific knowledge and expertise, notably by supporting Plan Bleu (the UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre based in Marseille) and the MedECC.
The members of the MCSD acknowledged progress and the need for strengthened partnerships to place the region on a path to sustainability and resilience. They identified areas for accelerated action, including:
- Protecting marine and coastal biodiversity and implementing the Mediterranean region’s own post-2020 Biodiversity Framework (SAPBIO) in close interaction with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the treaty addressing marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- Concentrating action on protecting Posidonia oceanica. Known as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”, Posidonia meadows are flowering marine plants that provide important habitats and high-value ecosystem services. They act as effective carbon sinks and help mitigate coastal risks, such as flooding and erosion, by acting as natural buffers.
- Raising collective ambition in the framework of the revision of Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development. The exercise will consider the region’s sustainable development indicators and the results of the Plan Bleu-led MED 2050 Foresight Study, which provides visibility on possible futures of the Mediterranean through the lens of different scenarios.
By encompassing these elements, the revised Strategy will seek to bend current trajectories and place the region on alternative pathways to sustainability and resilience.The MCSD recommendations capturing the priorities identified by its members will be conveyed by the Secretariat to the 23rd Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols (COP 23) –the “COP for the Mediterranean”—that Slovenia will host in December 2023. They will also feed into the preparation of the 2025 UN Ocean Conference (Nice, France) at which the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system will mark 50 years of multilateral cooperation for a healthy Mediterranean Sea and coast.