The Mediterranean is in an alarming situation, warming 20% ​​faster than the world average, according to the first-ever scientific report on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean, developed by MedECC with the UfM support. It is estimated that about 15 mega port cities are at risk of flooding, unless further adaptation is undertaken. Maritime transport is one of the most important blue economy sectors in the Mediterranean, both in terms of growth and employment. Yet, it accounts for 10% of marine pollution and 3% of air-polluting emissions. On top of that, about 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year and one-time use plastics are making a massive come-back during this COVID-19 crisis. To face all these challenges, the UfM, with its co-presidency, conducted a virtual consultation through the participative platform, Med Blue Economy Platform, during March 2020.

The consultation was structured around priority themes identified with the UfM Member States, ranging from maritime governance, sustainable food, tourism, maritime transport to adaptation to climate change, blue skills development and employment. Around 100 entities – including research centres and universities, public administrations, private sector, international organisations and non-governmental organisations – submitted over 350 substantial feedbacks entries, as part of the preparation process of the 2nd UfM Ministerial Meeting on Blue Economy, foreseen in 2020.

The online consultation identified urgent technical assistance needs for the Mediterranean countries, including digitalisation, integration of circular economy and application of sustainable financing.  As the COVID-19 has temporarily held ashore scientific research boats, the lack of up-to-date Mediterranean science data will be especially challenging to preserve marine ecosystems and study the impact of plastic litter.

The consultation also highlighted that the Mediterranean region is among the world’s leading tourist destinations, hosting more than 300 million tourists per year. Representing the first Blue Economy sector for income and job creation in the basin, tourism is also a driving force for young entrepreneurship and SME’s growth. By far this has been one of the most affected sectors by the COVID-19, and upcoming new norms of social distancing have been raised as priority concerned during the consultation. More than ever, UfM countries will need to position the Mediterranean as a truly ‘green’ touristic destination, taking into account aspect key to enable sustainable growth for the sector.

Isidro González, UfM Deputy Secretary General for Water and Environment, said: “The outbreak of the COVID-19 demands a synchronized, coordinated approach to find adequate common responses, to ensure resilience and minimize the socio-economic impacts on the region. The success of the consultation shows a great willingness of the Blue Economy community to further strengthen its potential as a Mediterranean network in contributing to the preparation and implementation of the UfM post-2020 agenda and portfolio of activities.

The active, dynamic and rapid consultation conducted, is a result of the ongoing collaboration between the UfM Co-Presidency, UfM Secretariat, Member-States and experts’ community making the Blue Economy dossier a best practice example to tackle regional issues.

Twenty-five years after the launch of the Barcelona Process, a Euro-Mediterranean regional approach is more than ever relevant to tackle blue economy challenges. Participants have commended the UfM-managed Med Blue Economy Platform and called to further strengthen it to include and facilitate contacts between existing education networks, foster exchange of information including pedagogic tools, and serve as an interface for the Blue Economy mobility programs.

Source: Union for the Mediterranean.