Dr Robert Golob: “This is something that we truly owe to our children, to our common history and to our common future.”

“When it comes to the environment, there are no borders. There is only one environment, and that is the environment of our planet. We must take action and we must act globally. You will be proud of what Slovenia is going to stand for in the next two years,” Prime Minister Dr Robert Golob told the delegates gathered at the 23rd Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention – COP 23, as Slovenia takes over the Presidency.

Day 3 of the Meeting of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention, which commits 21 countries and the European Union to protecting the sea and coasts of the Mediterranean, marks the Ministerial Meeting. Opening remarks were delivered by Prime Minister Dr. Robert Golob and State Secretary Maša Kociper, followed by a topical debate with Dr. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, a prominent Slovenian scientist working in the field of tackling climate change, with the adoption of the Portorož Ministerial Declaration in the late afternoon, which will commit countries to accelerating the green transition and to investing in a more water-, climate-, food- and energy-secure future for the Mediterranean.

Slovenian Prime Minister Dr. Robert Golob highlighted the importance of the commitments that the Mediterranean countries are implementing through the Barcelona Convention. In this respect, cross-border cooperation and intergenerational cooperation are key to improving the lives of people living along the shores of the coast of our sea. “We must make sure we provide food, energy, climate and security for the whole Mediterranean area,” said the Prime Minister, underlining the importance of the Portorož Declaration, which was concluded yesterday by the representatives of the participating countries and will be formally adopted today. “This is something that we truly owe to our children, to our common history and to our common future.”

Prime Minister Golob expressed his gratitude to the delegates for the achievements of the meeting and the agreements reached, and announced a successful Slovenian Presidency. “Slovenia is proud to have taken over the Presidency of the Barcelona Convention. Partly because we are very proud of our water diplomacy.” Slovenia’s initiative to strengthen inter-regional and cross-border cooperation on water and marine governance based on the “source to sea” approach in the area of the Danube-Black Sea-Mediterranean is also an important step along this path.

In her address, State Secretary Maša Kociper also underlined the importance of international cooperation and the involvement of young people. “We enshrined these commitments in the Portorož Declaration. The concreteness of these commitments is the best forecast of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Barcelona Convention,” she added, pointing out the slogan Slovenia has chosen for its Presidency: it is now time to move on from words to actions.

A special focus of the meeting and of the Slovenian Presidency is on the role of young people and their involvement in decision-making and implementation of measures. They spoke out of desperation for rapid and concrete intervention and protection of their future.

The main debate of the Ministerial Meeting

In an interesting and dynamic panel discussion, which took place under the slogan of the Slovenian Presidency “Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions”, Dr Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, a prominent scientist and one of the pioneers in the field of research on the impact of climate change, participated as a representative of Slovenia.

“Let us not underestimate the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean. It is a hotspot where climate change is already showing an impact. Projections foresee a range of future problems – water, droughts, forest fires, storms, which will affect tourism, energy production, including that from renewable sources, and migration induced by climate change,” stressed Ms Kajfež Bogataj, among other things. Two changes or radical transformations are essential in this respect, she added: one in the use of fossil fuels and the other in the area of extensive agriculture. Among other things, Ms Kajfež Bogataj proposes measures to prevent the depletion of marine food resources, large-scale restoration of key habitats, and the implementation of existing treaties, regulations and other legal instruments.

Other keynote panellists were Almotaz Abadi, Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean; Jean-Charles Orsucci, Mayor of Bonifacio, France; Michael Scoullos, Chairman of the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development, representing the Association of NGOs; and Ahmed Yassin, young leader and co-founder of the environmental organisation Banlastic Egypt.

The speakers shared the view that climate change is exacerbating existing environmental challenges, but that it is essential to take action to the local level to ensure that the results are visible in the environment and in local space. The Mediterranean is an extremely important area in providing food security for its people and therefore we need effective measures to ensure a safe and healthy environment for future generations. In the field of transport, we need a new sustainable mode of mobility, and since most people live in cities, these need to be green and adapted to cope with the heat, the panellists stressed. However, in order to effectively combat and act against climate change, we need to place the greatest emphasis on education and public awareness.

Portorož Ministerial Declaration

The contents of the Portorož Declaration were negotiated by the Contracting Parties, led by the Slovenian delegation and successfully finalised yesterday. It was adopted at the conclusion of the Ministerial Meeting; with it, the Ministers of the Mediterranean countries commit themselves to a more effective implementation of global and regional agreements.

The main topic of the Portorož Ministerial Declaration is the Green Transition, and within it:

  • a commitment to reduce plastic and microplastics pollution, which will come into force in 2024, 
  • accelerated implementation of maritime spatial  planning and integrated coastal zone management, which details activities and uses in coastal areas, and restricts construction within the 100-metre coastal zone,
  • strengthening international cooperation in the fight against climate change through concrete actions and public awareness-raising,
  • conservation of coastal biodiversity and protection of at least 30% of marine areas by 2030, including areas beyond national jurisdiction,
  • accelerating the implementation of decarbonisation of maritime transport and the reduction of greenhouse gases, in conjunction with the establishment of a sulphur oxides emission control area in the Mediterranean as a whole, which will enter into force on 1 May 2025, as well as the continuation of the process for the establishment of a nitrogen oxides emission control area for maritime transport in the Mediterranean as a whole,
  • encouraging all Contracting Parties to ratify all 7 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,
  • commitment to achieving and maintaining good environmental status of the Mediterranean sea,
  • promoting sustainable development through the principles of the Blue Economy and the Green Transition.

In addition, the Portorož Ministerial Declaration places great emphasis on the involvement of youth, civil society and other stakeholders in addressing environmental problems and seeking solutions, and on the strengthening of intergenerational cooperation. It also emphasises the modernisation of education programmes towards sustainable development and better response to climate change, biodiversity conservation and pollution prevention. It is essential that young people be involved in environmental issues and decision-making processes and that their active participation be ensured.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP MAP) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2025. A celebratory event will be organised in the framework of the United Nations Ocean Conference to be held in Nice in June 2025, under the leadership of France, Spain, Slovenia and Egypt.

Slovenia has just taken over the Presidency of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. In the second half of 2024, Slovenia will also be taking over the Presidency of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). In this sense, Slovenia is being very proactive in the field of water diplomacy.