The changing environment in the Mediterranean region

Recent anthropogenic climate change is manifest in the Mediterranean, alongside other changes in the environment such as sea and air pollution, soil degradation and biodiversity loss. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly highlighted the region as particularly vulnerable. Besides the various direct regional consequences of climate change (e.g. heat waves, ocean acidification, extreme precipitation events, droughts, sea-level rise, ocean circulation changes etc.), the combined impacts of landscape and ecosystem degradation due to urbanization, pollution, and unsustainable use of the land and the sea are widely recognized as a severe problem.

Although substantial scientific knowledge exists and research has been intensified in the recent years through numerous small studies but also several large collaborative projects (MISTRALS, MedCLIVAR, CIRCE or Med-Cordex), the results of this research remain often not easily accessible to policy-makers. A comprehensive synthesis and assessment of recent trends, likely future development and the consequences of environmental change for natural systems, the economy, and the human well-being, is still lacking. Existing assessments cover only parts of the region in disconnected chapters (e.g. the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, IPBES) or only some topics (e.g. climate variability). Research activities, monitoring data and other knowledge generation about climate change and other environmental changes are not sufficiently coordinated. Moreover, even the current large research effort leaves significant parts of the region without adequate information. Some of the most vulnerable regions and economic sectors are insufficiently studied, notably in the South and the East.

Regional political frameworks on these issues exist. The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), developed under the auspices of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was adopted four decades ago in 1975, as the institutional framework for cooperation in addressing common challenges of marine environmental degradation. Under this framework, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) and its seven protocols brings together the 21 Mediterranean riparian countries and the European Union, as Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention. The MAP-Barcelona Convention system is a legally-binding set of instruments, policies and action plans for addressing common issues and challenges of environmental degradation and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea.

In February 2016, the 19th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP19) adopted the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD) 2016-2025, as a strategic guiding document for all stakeholders and partners to translate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) at the regional, sub-regional and national levels. The MSSD provides an integrative policy framework for securing a sustainable future for the Mediterranean region consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The MSSD recognizes climate change as a priority issue for the socio-economic development and environmental sustainability of the Mediterranean and calls for increasing scientific knowledge, raising awareness, and developing technical capacities to progress towards a green, low-carbon and climate-resilient Mediterranean region. The Flagship Initiative for the MSSD Objective 4 (Addressing climate change as a priority issue for the Mediterranean) recommends “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”. MedECC directly contributes to this MSSD Flagship Initiative. The Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) is the advisory body that assists the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention to integrate environmental issues in their socioeconomic programmes and to promote sustainable development policies in the Mediterranean region. As a forum for debate and exchange of experiences, the MCSD is unique in its composition as it gathers on an equal footing government and local authorities representatives, socio-economic actors, civil society/NGOs, IGOs, scientists, and Parliamentarians. The MCSD is a key structure within the MAP-Barcelona Convention system for supporting the development, implementation and monitoring of the MSSD. Plan Bleu is the UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Center in charge of activities aiming to support the MSSD implementation and monitoring.

The need of robust science-policy interfaces in the Mediterranean has also been stated in the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas (UNEP/MAP) approved by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 2016.

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is an intergovernmental institution created in 2008 and bringing together all 28 countries of the European Union and 15 countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean. UfM’s mission is to enhance regional cooperation, dialogue and the implementation of projects and initiatives with tangible impact on citizens, addressing three strategic objectives: stability, human development and integration. The UfM Climate Change Expert Group (UfM CCEG) was established at the first UfM Ministerial Meeting on Environment and Climate Change in May 2014 in Athens, Greece. During this meeting the Ministers acknowledged an urgent need to address the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean region and shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns for a green and low emission economy. The role of the UfM CCEG is to advance discussion on climate change priority actions and accelerate the identification and development of concrete projects and initiatives. The UfM Ministerial Declaration of Athens expressed the need for a Mediterranean regional vulnerability assessment regarding climate change impacts.

MedECC flyer (November 2018)

Download the MedECC concept note (July 2016)

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