Four benefits the Mediterranean region can expect from COP 23


The 23rd Meeting (COP 23) of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) and its Protocols will take place from 5-8 December 2023 in Portoroz, Slovenia. The overarching goal is to enhance the protection of the Mediterranean region’s marine and coastal environment in the context of sustainable development. 

“Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions” is the theme articulated by the Bureau of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (21 coastal States and the European Union) for the Ministerial Session, which will take place on 7 December 2023.

As the foremost intergovernmental gathering dedicated to the marine and coastal environment, the meetings of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention serve as “COPs for the Mediterranean”, allowing for the articulation of regionally coordinated approaches to the global environment and development agenda.

COP 23, which will culminate in the adoption of the Portoroz Ministerial declaration, is expected to deliver four key outcomes: 

  1. Accelerating the implementation of the Mediterranean countries’ commitments to biodiversity protection and conservation

COP 23 will consider decisions on adding new endangered species to Annex II, and species whose exploitation is regulated to Annex III to the Specially Protected Areas and Biodiversity (SPA/BD) Protocol to the Barcelona Convention. The aim is also to strengthen the network of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs). This is related to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). SAP BIO, or the “Strategic Action Programme for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources in the Mediterranean”, is the blueprint that the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention have adopted to achieve common goals on biodiversity, including the GBF targets. 

  1. Grounding policymaking in a robust science-based platform

COP 23 will examine decisions pertaining to the 2023 Mediterranean Quality Status Report (2023 MED QSR) — a major deliverable of UNEP/MAP’s work.  This report provides comprehensive and, to the extent possible, quantifiable assessments based on nationally sourced data covering all “Ecological Objectives” adopted by the Contracting Parties as part of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP) and the Ecosystem Approach.

Ensuring that environmental policies in the Mediterranean region are grounded in evidence is one of the priorities of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system. This is reflected in the support that the system provides to MedECC, a network of scientists, which produced the Special Report on Climate and Environmental Coastal Risks. 

  1. Curbing pollution and ingraining sustainability in the blue economy

The COP 23 agenda will include three new Regional Plans on agriculture, aquaculture and urban stormwater management. These regional plans come with measures that, if implemented, will support the Contracting Parties in meeting their obligations under the Land-Based Sources (LBS) Protocol to the Barcelona Convention.

COP 23 will also examine a decision on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which ensures that a thriving blue economy in the Mediterranean does not come at the expense of marine and coastal ecosystems.

  1. Paving the way for the 2024-2025 biennium, the halfway point in the implementation of the UNEP/MAP Medium-Term Strategy (2022-2027)

COP 23 will examine an ambitious proposal on the UNEP/MAP Programme of Work and Budget for 2024-2025. The aim is to strengthen the UNEP/MAP means of implementation and to match the high level of ambition expressed by the Contracting Parties in their successive ministerial declarations.

COP 23 is also expected to mandate important updates to the Ecosystem Approach, the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP), the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas.