Mepielan Ebulletin

MEDITERRANEAN SEA – Outcomes of the 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols.

Friday, 06 November 2020
Fourteen thematic decisions related to pollution and marine litter, biodiversity and marine protected areas, blue economy and integrated coastal zone management alongside a groundbreaking roadmap for the proposal of a possible designation of the Mediterranean as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides, were adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols during their 21st Meeting in Naples, Italy (COP21). 

COP21, convened by the UNEP/MAP Secretariat, took place on 2-5 December 2019 in Castel dell’Ovo, a medieval seaside castle and was attended by Ministers and senior officials representing all Contracting Parties -21 Mediterranean States and the European Union.  More than 300 registered participants, including civil society and intergovernmental organizations, took part in the negotiations meanwhile side-events, exhibitions and panel discussions on the health of Mediterranean marine and coastal ecosystems occurred. 

The Contracting Parties reiterated their commitment to the health of the Mediterranean Sea and coast and adopted the Naples Ministerial Declaration that “encapsulates an eloquent expression of political support to the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system’s role, achievements and plans in responding to the environmental challenges facing the Mediterranean region” as stated by the UNEP/MAP Coordinator, Mr. Gaetano Leone. COP21 also marked the starting point of a new biennium that will focus on implementation and on the preparation of new strategic documents that constitute guidelines for the future, including an action-oriented Medium-Term Strategy for the 2022-2027 period.  

In her speech at the opening of COP21 Ministerial Segment (4 December 2019), UNEP Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya observed that “for forceful evidence of the strength of this Convention, we have only to look at its remarkably solid funding situation: to date, nearly 93 per cent of this year’s assessed contributions of Contracting Parties to the Mediterranean Trust Fund have already been received. This financial commitment demonstrates that Contracting Parties believe in this instrument, what it has achieved, and what achievements are still to come.”

The 13 thematic decisions and one decision on the MAP Programme of Work and Budget 2020-2021

The decisions adopted by the Contracting Parties during COP21 are specified as follows:
  • A groundbreaking roadmap for the proposal of a possible designation of the Mediterranean as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides was adopted, in line with the terms of Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The aforementioned development is considered of vital importance, as Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and an important source of pollution with adverse impacts on human health and ecosystems.   

    The Mediterranean Sea is host to the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is the second busiest cruising region in the world after the Caribbean with 15.8% of global cruise fleet deployment in 2017 (MedCruise Association, 2018). Ship movements, which often occur close to the densely populated coasts of the Mediterranean countries, result in emissions of toxic gases and Particulate Matter (PM) from fuel combustion, including sulphur oxides (SOx).

    Sulphur oxides emissions contribute to the formation of sulphate aerosols which, along with other types of PM, are able to penetrate deep into the lungs of humans and all living organisms. Exposure to such pollutants is linked to lung cancer, cardiovascular illnesses and asthma. Ecosystems suffer from the deposition of sulphate aerosols particles which increase acidification of surface water and soil. Sulphate also takes a toll on human-made buildings and infrastructure, including vulnerable world heritage sites. 
  • The Contracting Parties adopted thematic decisions pertaining to the circular economy, guidelines on the placement of artificial reefs at sea, offshore guidelines and standards and the common regional framework for integrated coastal zone management (ICZM).
  • COP21 examined the findings of the evaluation of the implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAP BIO) and adopted updated strategies and plans for the conservation of monk seal, sharks and rays among other iconic Mediterranean species. The designation of four new sites as “Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI)” in France, Italy, Slovenia and Spain was also adopted.
  • The Contracting Parties adopted elements of six regional plans to reduce and prevent marine pollution from Land-Based Sources (LBS) will now complement and bolster the LBS and Dumping Protocols of the Barcelona Convention.
  • COP 21 updated and mandated the preparation of additional legally binding measures to address marine litter, waste water and sludge management using prevention, resource efficiency, sustainable consumption and production, and circular economy approaches.
  • COP21 welcomed and cleared the publication (please see, MEPIELAN e-bulletin, “Documents & Cases”) of the UNEP/MAP State of Environment and Development Report (SoED 2019), which describes mounting pressure on the Mediterranean basin deriving from population growth, climate change, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, extractive industries and transport.
  • COP21 adopted the proposed Programme of Work and an increased core budget of UNEP/MAP for the 2020-2021 biennium. Contracting Parties also endorsed the launch of preparations for the next UNEP/MAP medium-term strategy (2022-2027) in the context of the 2030 Agenda implementation.
  • COP21 agenda carried a focus on sustainability with a view for UNEP/MAP to underpin efforts by the Contracting Parties in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The election of Professor Ev. Raftopoulos as a Member of the Compliance Committee of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols

By Decision IG.24/1, entitled “Compliance Committee”, adopted by the first Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols (COP21), Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos was elected as a Member of the Compliance Committee of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. The Compliance Committee consists of seven Members elected by the Meeting of the Contracting Parties from a list of candidates nominated by the Contracting Parties. “Nominated candidates are persons of recognized competence in the matters dealt with by the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols and in relevant scientific, technical, socio-economic, legal or other fields” and “the elected members serve in their individual capacities and act objectively in the interests of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols”. 

The Compliance Committee was established in 2008 by COP15 (Almeria, Spain, 15-18 January 2008) and its objective is “to facilitate and promote compliance with the obligations under the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, taking into account the specific situation of each Contracting Party, in particular those, which are developing countries”.   

For further information:


Please subscribe to receive updates
Name: Email: