(COP 23) Prime Minister Dr Robert Golob: We owe it to our children, our shared history, and our common future
A ministerial meeting is being held on the third day of the meeting of the Member Parties to the Barcelona Convention, with which 21 countries and the European Union have committed themselves to protecting the Mediterranean sea and its shores. The delegates and the general public were addressed by Prime Minister Dr Robert Golob and State Secretary Maša Kociper, followed by a substantive debate with the participation of Dr Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, distinguished Slovenian scientist in the field of climate change. In the late afternoon, the Portorož Ministerial Declaration will be adopted at the meeting, committing the countries to action to accelerate the green transition and to invest in a more water-, climate-, food- and energy-secure future for the Mediterranean.
Prime Minister Golob recalled the importance of the commitments that the Mediterranean countries are implementing through the Barcelona Convention. In this regard, cross-border cooperation and intergenerational collaboration are crucial for improving the lives of people on the shores of our sea. “We need to take care of food, energy, climate, and security across the entire Mediterranean region,” said the Prime Minister, underlining the importance of the Portorož Declaration, which was agreed upon by the representatives of the countries yesterday and which will be officially confirmed today. “This is something that we truly owe to our children, to our shared history, and to our common future.”
Prime Minister Golob thanked the delegates for the achievements of the meeting and the reached agreements and announced a successful Slovenian Presidency. “Slovenia is proud to have taken over the Presidency of the Barcelona Convention, also because we are very proud of our water diplomacy.” An important step in this direction is Slovenia’s initiative to strengthen interregional and cross-border cooperation in the field of water and marine management based on the “source to sea” approach in the Danube-Black Sea-Mediterranean region.
In her address, State Secretary Maša Kociper also highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the involvement of youth. “These commitments have been outlined in the Portorož Declaration. The concreteness of these commitments is the best indication of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Barcelona Convention,” said State Secretary Kociper, underlining the slogan that Slovenia has chosen for its Presidency: from decisions to action.
The meeting and the Slovenian presidency place a special emphasis on the role of young generations and their involvement in decision-making and the implementation of measures. In their speech, they made a desperate appeal for swift and concrete action to protect their future.
Main debate of the ministerial meeting
Slovenia’s representative in an engaging and lively panel discussion under the slogan of the Slovenian Presidency, Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions, was Dr Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, a distinguished scientist and one of Slovenia’s pioneers in researching the impact of climate change.
“Let us not underestimate the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean. It is a hotspot where climate change is already having an impact. Forecasts predict a series of future problems – water issues, droughts, forest fires, storms – which will affect tourism, energy production, including from renewable sources, and climate change-induced migration,” highlighted Dr Kajfež Bogataj, adding that two changes or radical transformations were essential: in the use of fossil fuels and in extensive agriculture. Dr Kajfež Bogataj proposed measures to prevent the depletion of marine food sources, large-scale restoration of key habitats, and the implementation of existing treaties, regulations, and other legal instruments.
Other keynote speakers included Almotaz Abadi, Deputy Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Jean-Charles Orsucci, Mayor of the French town of Bonifacio, Michael Scoullos, President of the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development as representative of non-governmental organisations, and Ahmed Yassin, young leader and co-founder of the environmental organisation Banlastic Egypt.
The speakers agreed that climate change is exacerbating existing environmental challenges, but that it was essential to bring the implementation of measures to the local level to ensure that the results are visible in the environment and in space. The Mediterranean is a nutritionally important region and we need effective measures to ensure a safe and healthy environment for future generations. In the field of transport, a new sustainable mobility approach is needed, and as the majority of the population lives in cities, these need to be green and adapted to cope with heat, emphasised the panellists. However, to effectively combat and act against climate change, we need to focus on education and raising awareness.
Portorož Ministerial Declaration
The content of the Portorož Declaration was negotiated by the Member Parties, led by the Slovenian delegation, for several weeks, and successfully concluded yesterday. It will be adopted late this afternoon, at the end of the ministerial meeting, and commits the ministers of the Mediterranean countries to more effective implementation of global and regional agreements.
The main theme of the Portorož Ministerial Declaration is the green transition and in this context:
- a commitment to reducing plastic and microplastic pollution, which comes into force in 2024,
- accelerated implementation of marine planning and integrated coastal zone management, which specifies activities and uses in coastal areas and limits construction in the 100-metre coastal zone,
- strengthening international cooperation in the fight against climate change through concrete actions and public awareness raising,
- conserving coastal biodiversity and protecting at least 30% of marine areas by 2030, including areas beyond national jurisdictions,
- accelerating the implementation of decarbonisation of maritime transport and the reduction of greenhouse gases, in conjunction with the establishment of the Mediterranean as an emission control area for sulphur oxides, which will enter into force on 1 May 2025, as well as the continuation of the process for the establishment of an emission control area for nitrogen oxides for maritime transport in the whole Mediterranean,
- encouraging all Member Parties to ratify all seven Protocols of the Barcelona Convention as soon as possible, and in particular the amendments to the Dumping Protocol, with a view to its entry into force by the end of 2024,
- commit to achieving and maintaining a good environmental status of the sea throughout the entire Mediterranean,
- promote sustainable development through the principles of the blue economy and the green transition.
Furthermore, the Portorož Ministerial Declaration places great emphasis on involving young generations, civil society, and other stakeholders in addressing environmental issues and finding solutions, as well as on strengthening intergenerational cooperation. It also emphasises the modernisation of educational programmes towards sustainable development and better response to climate change, biodiversity conservation, and pollution prevention. Involving young people in environmental issues and decision-making processes and ensuring their active participation is of key importance.
The Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2025. To mark the occasion, a celebratory event led by France, Spain, Slovenia, and Egypt will be organised in the margins of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Nice in June 2025.
Slovenia has just taken over the Presidency of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. In the second half of 2024, it will also take over the Presidency of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), thus being actively engaged in water diplomacy.