Barcelona Convention COP 22

7–10 December 2021 | Antalya, Türkiye


As well as the landmark decision on controlling sulphur oxide emissions—which will have major health and environmental benefits for Mediterranean communities—COP 22 adopted several significant plans.

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Photo by Benjamin L. Jones on Unsplash

Positioning itself between the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference held in November 2021 in Glasgow, UK, and the UN Biodiversity Conference to be held in a few months in Kunming, China, the 22nd Meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP 22) to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) and its Protocols came at a crucial point in time and served as the “COP for the Mediterranean. COP 22 offered an inclusive platform for renewed commitment for environmental action in the Mediterranean, including building back greener following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COPs to the Barcelona Convention and its protocols, held every two years, constitute the principal regional body on environment and sustainable development in the Mediterranean region. COP 22 included a ministerial session, under the theme “Towards a Blue Mediterranean: Leaving a Pollution-Free Legacy, Protecting Biodiversity and Sustaining Climate Stability,” which concluded with a discussion on and the adoption of the Antalya Ministerial Declaration.

Other highlights from the meeting’s agenda included:

  • the UN Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) Medium-term Strategy (MTS) for 2022-2027, which offers an integrated approach to tackle the triple crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • the Post-2020 Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (Post-2020 SAPBIO), which was complemented by a strategic document on marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures to strengthen regional biodiversity conservation;
  • measures to combat pollution and marine litter, including the Regional Strategy on pollution from ships (2022-2031) and the Ballast Water Management Strategy (2022-2027);
  • the designation of the entire Mediterranean Sea as an emission control area for sulfur oxides, as established under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); and
  • the promotion of the circular blue economy.

COP 22 took place from 7-10 December 2021 in Antalya, Turkey. Representatives from Contracting Parties’ governments, international, governmental, and non-governmental organizations, and academia attended the meeting, which marked 45 years of regional solidarity and mutual efforts for environmental sustainability. The COP 22 logo, presented by the host country Turkey during a preparatory meeting held from 28-30 September 2021 in Antalya, featured a pictogram representing the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), an iconic symbol of the biodiversity-rich Mediterranean region and a symbol of hope thanks to positive conservation trends.

In 1975, 16 Mediterranean countries and the European Community adopted the MAP, the first under UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme. The Barcelona Convention, under the auspices of UNEP/MAP, was adopted on 16 February 1976 to protect the Mediterranean region against pollution and entered into force two years later. Two decades later, the Convention was amended to include coasts in its scope and to incorporate concepts that dominated the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development, such as the protection and preservation of biodiversity, and the application of the precautionary and the “polluter pays” principles. These amendments entered into force in 2004. The Barcelona Convention and its seven Protocols adopted in the MAP framework constitute the main legally binding multilateral environmental agreement in the region. 21 Mediterranean countries and the European Union are Contracting Parties.

Coverage of COP 22 Barcelona Convention by IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin was supported by Monaco.

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