COP 23: It’s time for action

Next week, Slovenia is hosting the 23rd Meeting of the Member Parties to the Barcelona Convention, COP 23 – the Conference for the Mediterranean, in Portorož, under the auspices of the United Nations. Slovenia is taking over the two-year Presidency of the Convention, and the programme and objectives were presented at today’s press conference by H.E. Minister Ms. Alenka Bratušek.

“This Presidency is also proof that Slovenia is an important maritime country. Perhaps this is something we are not aware of enough at home: we have the sea, which is the gateway to the world, and strategic advantage,” said Alenka Bratušek, Minister of Infrastructure, acting as Minister of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning. “Waters know no borders. And if we want to manage them wisely and in a green way, through source to sea approach, countries must come together in cross-border cooperation, with coordinated objectives and actions. In times of global climate change, this is all the more important.”

Alenka Bratušek

Maša Kociper
Mitja Bricelj

Slovenia is a prominent partner in this area. Firstly, we are the initiators of the Danube–Black Sea–Mediterranean interregional water collaboration, which will, with an action programme, bring together the world’s most international river basin, following the “source to sea” principle. Secondly, we are preparing measures to establish the entire Mediterranean as a an emission control area for sulphur from shipping, which will be implemented during Slovenia’s Presidency of the Barcelona Convention, which is a very big and important step. Thirdly, we will comprehensively link the management of river basins, coasts and the sea, as visualised in the official logo of the Slovenian COP23, which summarises the dynamism of the blue and green corridors. And finally, a large portion of the meeting will be dedicated to involving young people in the planning and implementation of measures in view of adapting to climate change and the sustainable use of natural resources.

About the Portorož meeting

The meeting will be organised in three parts: a plenary meeting of the Member Parties (21 countries plus the European Union) to review the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols and to chart a course of action for the next biennium; the Ministerial Meeting, where the Portorož Declaration will be adopted, committing countries to action for a faster green transition and investment into a more water-, climate-, food- and energy-secure future; and side events which, as an open forum, bring together representatives of NGOs and professional and scientific organisations to discuss topical issues related to the protection of the sea and coasts in the face of the growing impact of climate change and water pollution. 

Not only high-level representatives of the governments of the Member States of the Barcelona Convention, but also representatives of research institutions, non-governmental organisations and youth representatives will actively participate. “As organisers, we are particularly proud of the inclusion of young people in the programme of the meeting, as it demonstrates, also at this level, the transition from words to action. It is precisely young people who should be – and hopefully will be – the key agents of change for a healthy Mediterranean,” noted State Secretary Maša Kociper at the press conference, concluding that during Slovenia’s presidency of the Barcelona Convention, “it is crucial for Slovenia that the Member Parties commit to active action in the field, which is also reflected in the slogan of the meeting, ‘Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions’.”

The Mediterranean is experiencing a triple crisis, highlighted Mitja Bricelj, National Coordinator of the Barcelona Convention: “The Mediterranean today reflects the pressure of humanity on the shared coastal and marine environment: it is manifested in the crisis of climate change, which is transforming the coasts and the sea, in the pollution coming from the coasts and the sea, and in the decline of biodiversity.” The Member Parties to the Barcelona Convention are addressing the impact of these crises through coordinated cross-border action, or taking measures to preserve the health, reproductivity and coastal and marine resources of the Mediterranean, explained Bricelj.

The Slovenian COP 23 logo in shades of blue and green underlines the importance of blue and green corridors in modern spatial planning, to which Slovenia places particular emphasis. The logo symbolises a combination of elements of the sea, rivers and forests, underlining the importance of protecting biodiversity in times of increasingly severe impacts of climate change. “The logo symbolises the dynamism of waters in relation to biological processes. From the top of Mount Triglav, down the Soča River to the mouth of the Gulf of Trieste and, on the other hand, from the source of the Sava River to the mouth of the Danube. During the recent flooding, we experienced these corridors particularly well,” Dr. Bricelj was specific.

Almost half a century ago, the signatories to the Barcelona Convention committed themselves to maintaining healthy, safe, clean and biodiverse seas and coasts in the Mediterranean. The main tasks of the Slovenian presidency will be related to marine protected areas, integrated coastal zone management and maritime spatial planning, updates on emergency plans and to increasing resilience to climate change.

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