In 2016, more than 228,000 people died prematurely from exposure to air pollution, according to UNEP’s State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED).
Rising inequalities, loss of biodiversity, climate change and relentless pressure on natural resources could lead to irreversible environmental damage in the Mediterranean basin, the report warned.
Moreover, unless urgent and resolute action is taken to halt current trends, environmental degradation could have serious and lasting consequences for human health and livelihoods across the region.
A dark picture
With hundreds of millions of visitors each year, the Mediterranean is one of the world’s most coveted tourist destinations and one of the busiest sea routes.
Every day, it is polluted with around 730 tonnes of plastic waste, which threatens biodiversity as well as the more than 1,000 non-native species that live underwater, UNEP said.
In addition, the entire region is warming 20% faster than the world average.
SoED also says the region, home to more than 512 million people, is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Solutions at sea
To combat environmental degradation, the report identifies several actions, including phasing out harmful subsidies – such as those for non-renewable fuels and groundwater extraction – and recommends instead encouraging options. sustainable.
He calls on all sectors of Mediterranean economies to prioritize development, not just those directly related to the environment, and to implement measures to prevent degradation – noting that they cost less and lead to better environmental and social results than cleaning and remedial actions.
It is also recommended to harness nature-based solutions to build resilience, which requires actions and investments.
And finally, SoED advocates the application of the provisions of national legislation on liability and legal action if necessary, as well as the strengthening of legal enforcement mechanisms, including those of the Barcelona Convention of the region, on protection of the marine environment, and its protocols.
“Green rebirth” possible
“By highlighting the mistakes of the past, the report’s findings can guide a green renaissance in the Mediterranean,” said Gaetano Leone, coordinator of the UNEP / MAP-Barcelona Convention secretariat.
“Engaging now on greener development paths can halt trends of environmental degradation and save hard-won achievements in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
Last published in 2009, SoED provides a comprehensive assessment of the environment and development in the Mediterranean region.
It was produced by Plan Bleu, a regional center of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), involving 21 Mediterranean coastal countries and the European Union, so that they can cooperate in the protection of marine and coastal environments for sustainable development.