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The Mediterranean, after the Arctic, is suffering the most from global warming trends. Europe is taking action though not enough

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By Enrico Granara, Italian Senior Official, Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)

On October 10th in Barcelona, at a meeting of the Regional Forum of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Union of the Mediterranean, a report by the scientist network MedECC was presented to the public.

The MedECC Network was created by the 2014 Athens UfM Ministerial Conference, in coordination with the UN Environment Agency. Its report deals with the risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean Region.

The most worrying analysis emerging from this report is that the Mediterranean is the second area in the world, after the Arctic, to suffer from the global warming trends, with a rise of 1.5 Celsius degrees in the average temperature already a reality.

The Mediterranean is the second area in the world, after the Arctic, to suffer from the global warming trends, with a rise of 1.5 Celsius degrees in the average temperature already a reality.

The consequences of this established phenomenon is already impacting the region as is evidenced on a daily basis. Even worse is the report’s prediction that the trend will continue to grow steadily, alongside increasing sea levels, to ever more dangerous levels. 

The report as such does not include policy recommendations, which can be found in other official documents issued by the relevant UN and other entities recommendations, mainly in connection with the 2030 UN Development Goals.

What we have gathered from the MedECC findings is a warning for governments to avoid falling into a trap where the Environmental agenda is downgraded versus other priorities in terms of short, mid and long-term economic planning.

Conversely, the new EU Commission has included climate action in its agenda and we can expect a positive influence to be exerted at all levels. Some new governments, like that of Italy and Portugal, most recently have devoted more attention to climate action. 

Getting back to the EU, we also take note that the conceptual, financial and organizational framework of the European bio-economy remains objectively a very important and comprehensive plan. We are talking about 80 to 100 billion euros of investments for the new environmental policies in Europe from Horizon 2020 (1*) and beyond. 

However, such a model of governance, if applied to the Mediterranean, reveals its fatal structural limits, as it is applied only in the sphere of the European Union, leaving the southern part of the basin, both eastern and western, excluded in many ways.

If we look at the resources allocated to environmental cooperation with the Southern UfM countries, we realize how residual they are compared to the levels invested in the European continental context alone.

For instance, 43 million euros allocated to the BlueMED initiative (2*) is only a marginal investment, given the magnitude of the environmental problems of our Sea.

Moreover, the main issue remains that of governing the overall environmental policies in the Mediterranean, and the need of adopting a comprehensive approach, together with our Southern partners.

The UfM Secretariat, which has a great potential in this domain, is still left underfunded and understaffed. Despite all this, it has managed to secure over 5.5 Billion Euros of funding for regional projects of development finance, much of which is being channelled towards relevant environment actions. We urgently need to strengthen such an organization.

After nearly ten years of activity, the principle of co-ownership, which should be the driving force of the new Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, is still largely unfulfilled.

No climate action could be effectively adopted if we continue to rely upon the previous  EUROMED (3*) mechanism, leaving all the burden to the EU Commission alone.

Ultimately, we need to elaborate a new mechanism of governance, starting with an effective climate action in the extended Mediterranean region, based on the findings of the MedECC Report.

Enrico Granara (64) is an Italian diplomat since 1983. He served in 6 destinations abroad, including Mozambique, France, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, USA and Kuwait. In his multilateral work he took care of the GFATM (2003-4) and for the last 7 years he continues to coordinate the Italian activities at Euro-Mediterranean level (UfM, 5+5 Dialogue, CMI Marseille, Anna Lindh Foundation.

1*. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract, it promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market

2*. The BLUEMED initiative aims to advance a shared vision for a more healthy, productive, resilient, better known and valued Mediterranean Sea, promoting the citizens’ social well-being and prosperity, now and for future generations, and boosting economic growth and jobs)

*3. EuroMed is the overall concept encompassing the European Neighbourhood Policies directed to the Southern Shores. It includes all the decisions made in Brussels when it comes to the allocation of funds on behalf of the different regional programs, as for example the ENI CBC (European Neighbourhood Instruments – Cross Border Cooperation). Its methodology involves a degree of Political consultation with the EU Southern partners, as it was in the case of the process or renewal of the EU Neighbourhood Policies framework in 2015. However, its decision making process does not fully include the Union for the Mediterranean, which was created precisely to have a say in matters like the Overlapping Policy Frames in the EU’s Governance of the Mediterranean, which need to be based on the principle of co-ownership.