The State of the Mediterranean Environment - From Analysis to Action

Speech Published 21 Nov 2006 Last modified 16 Oct 2014, 12:56 PM
Prof. Jacqueline McGlade's address at the 3rd Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Cairo, Egypt, 20 November 2006
The State of the Mediterranean Environment -
From Analysis to Action

Address by Professor Jacqueline McGlade
Executive Director, European Environment Agency

Euro Mediterranean Partnership
3rd Ministerial Conference on the Environment
Cairo, Egypt
20 November 2006



Introductory Remarks


Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
The European Environment Agency is delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to your discussions on the exciting new Horizon 2020 initiative on depolluting the Mediterranean Sea. I am here to offer you our support in moving from analysis to action.
Before outlining future challenges, I would like to begin by highlighting the main issues of concern identified in the recent joint report of EEA and UNEP/MAP on the Mediterranean Sea, which I had the privilege to present to the ministers at the last meeting of the Barcelona Convention; I will then make some observations on Horizon 2020 underlying the Agency’s commitment to contributing to the success of this important initiative.
A great deal of effort is being devoted to the environmental protection of the Mediterranean Sea by local, regional and national authorities, international organisations and financing institutions. But many environmental problems continue to arise in the region. In a recent joint report, the EEA and UNEP/MAP highlighted the extent of environmental degradation, and identified 11 major issues ranging from sewage from urban areas to biological invasions. Signals included 131 pollution hot spots and the fact that fishing had increased by 48% since 1970.

Further current and future challenges

Looking to the future we see several areas of concern. Those relating to climate change in the Mediterranean region including: warming and an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme meteorological events. Already we have seen a rise in summer temperature twice that in northern Europe and a decrease in total rainfall during the 20th century.
Access to water, where increased vulnerability of water supplies will potentially lead to increased costs, health risks and conflicts between users.
The increase in environmental pressures on coastal regions over the next 20 years is likely to be considerable, particularly in the areas of tourism, transport and urban development. One-third of coastal cities have no wastewater treatment plants.
The increasing demand for production, distribution and transport of energy will inevitably lead to widespread development of infrastructure which will a have huge impact on land use, the destruction of landscapes and coastal ecosystems and increase the risks of accidents and pollution. One hundred and twenty thousand tonnes of oil per year are released from terminals and discharges.
The strategic importance of the Mediterranean Sea also means increased pressures through an increased volume of maritime transport. Fifty-five thousand tonnes of oil spills from shipping accidents over the past 15 years have been recorded.
It is important to follow up on these issues and anticipate the possibility of integrating sectoral needs into future thinking about the Mediterranean. One opportunity might be to consider the relevance of undertaking the equivalent of the Stern report on the economic aspects of climate change adaptation for the Mediterranean.
 

The Horizon 2020 Initiative and what the EEA can contribute

The current and future challenges are daunting, but we should not be paralysed by their scale. Rather, they should mobilise us into action and encourage working together towards a set of common goals. The Horizon 2020 Initiative provides us with the vehicle to channel our efforts and, even more, it reinforces related activities such as the very important Mediterranean strategy for sustainable development
Initially, Horizon 2020 will focus on reducing the impacts of urban waste water, municipal waste and industrial emissions on the Mediterranean Sea – the three major recognised sources of pollution.
The European Environment Agency has been asked, in cooperation with Eurostat, MEDPOL, EMWIS (the Euro-Mediterranean Water Information System), the European Commission and other relevant bodies, such as the financial sector or other regional organisations, for example CEDARE, to monitor progress towards the target of de-polluting the Mediterranean Sea by 2020.
The Agency is well placed to contribute to this process given its experience in this area, its role in providing assessments, the positive experience it has had with Eionet in country benchmarking. (Eionet is the network of around 350 organisations across 32 European countries which the Agency co-ordinates.)
The Agency and Eionet in partnership with others across Europe are also developing a shared environmental information system. This has strong parallels with the development of InfoMAP, the proposed shared information system in the context of the Barcelona Convention. The Agency is closely engaged with the Mediterranean Action Plan, where we have a joint work programme, and with several regional sea conventions to help identify comparative indicators from existing data and information.
Thus by working together with you we hope to achieve significant synergies and a sense of mutual capacity building, where experiences about how to protect and improve the environment can be exchanged and practical lessons learnt. This aspect is likely to be especially important given the diversity and richness of the environmental, geographical, cultural and socio-economic heritage of the countries involved in Horizon 2020.
Because the data and information needed for this work are obtained through national and local programmes, it is clear there will be a need for strong cooperation in the tasks that lie ahead.

Requirements for data and information to measure progress

We certainly need good information to measure progress, as has been demonstrated by past and ongoing activities. What is also clear is the obvious benefit of the streamlining of data on reducing any duplication of effort. For example, MEDSTAT already collects data on landfills, waste water discharges and industrial emissions. Similarly, MED POL focuses on gathering data on major discharges of pollutants in the sea. Consolidating efforts such as these would help to strengthen their impact.
But having aggregated data on a national level is not really enough. We also need to know where things are happening throughout the Mediterranean. It is this geographical perspective, as well as benchmarking, which the Agency and Eionet would like to provide to the endeavours of Horizon 2020. 

Concluding Remark

In conclusion then, let me repeat that we share the expectation that Horizon 2020 is the opportunity for the Mediterranean to move from analysis to action to the benefit of the whole region. It is an inspiring prospect and the EEA and Eionet are enthusiastic about entering into a process where we can work further together with neighbouring countries to reach the common goal of depolluting the Mediterranean thus leaving a legacy that our children will be proud of. The challenge now is to grasp the opportunity and the EEA is committed to supporting this initiative.
Before I conclude, please allow me to express my sincere heartfelt thanks to the Egyptian government for hosting this meeting and for making us so very welcome in this wonderful and historical country.
Thank you for your attention.

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