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Brussels, 13 May 2014
Prioritise climate, environment, agree both sides of the Mediterranean
Ministers attending the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) meeting in Athens today issued a Declaration of their commitment to tackle the growing climate and environmental challenges facing the region. It is the first time climate change has been discussed at ministerial level within the UfM, a partnership promoting multilateral cooperation between 43 countries (28 EU Member States and 15 Mediterranean countries).
Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We have renewed our political commitment to de-pollute the Mediterranean Sea and taken important steps to increase our cooperation on climate change and sustainable consumption. Now the real work will start. We need to translate the political commitments in the Declaration we have adopted into action, both at national and regional level."
Commenting on the declaration, EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: ''I'm very glad that on both sides of the Mediterranean, we have decided to step up our common efforts in the fight against climate change. We are committed to an ambitious, legally binding deal in Paris next year as agreed in Durban, and are determined to work more closely together to make it happen. The Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but is also rich in opportunities for low-carbon development, including significant potential for renewable energy and energy and resource efficiency. In recognition of these challenges and opportunities, we have also established a regional climate change expert group for cooperation across the Mediterranean.''
The expert group established by this Declaration will encourage the exchange of information and best practice across the region and promote the development of projects and initiatives related to low emission and climate-resilient development. The expert group will bring together academia, civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions, investors and local and national administrations. Ministers renewed their support for the Horizon 2020 Initiative and the waste water, solid waste and industrial emissions sectors that it targets, and agreed to strengthen its pollution prevention dimension. They also stressed the importance of fully integrating action on climate change into national strategies, which will lead to greater mobilisation of financial resources from a variety of sources.
The Mediterranean region has been identified as a major climate change hotspot by experts. Future changes are expected to include temperature increases above the world average, lower rainfall patterns, and more extreme weather events.
The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most important, but threatened, environmental assets of the European Union. It is a global biodiversity hotspot, its fisheries support the livelihood of tens of thousands of artisan fishermen around the basin and its beaches are the destination of choice for millions of tourists every year. Despite its economic and social importance, the sea is subject to significant environment degradation. The Horizon 2020 Initiative, endorsed during the last Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Environment, supports and complements the implementation of the commitments under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (the Barcelona Convention). It aims to tackle the sources of pollution that are said to account for around 80% of the overall pollution of the Mediterranean Sea.