Climate Change in the Mediterranean: Rapid action is needed
Athens, 31 October 2008 - Following invitation of “Plan Bleu”, a regional activity center of the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP/MAP) and in its capacity as partner to UNEP/MAP, HELMEPA, participated in a 2-day Regional Seminar held on October 22 and 23 in Marseille, France.
Participants from all Mediterranean countries, representing the scientific and policy making communities, together with representatives of the EC-DG for the Environment, UNEP, European Environment Agency, Global Environmental Facility and NGOs gathered in order to define climate change in the Mediterranean for the coming years, to identify its impact and discuss possible measures for mitigation.
During the Seminar, an overview of how climate change will influence the human activity from tourism to agriculture, fishing, coastal systems and health, was presented.
The facts are alarming. The Med is a “hot spot”.
According to the IPCC report, the Mediterranean is one of the regions where the environment will be most affected by global warming. Climate experts from the French Society of Meteorology/National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) analyzed the forecasts for the Mediterranean. Temperatures are set to rise by 3-4 degrees C, salinity will increase, river run off will decrease, there will be a change in season behavior, 30 millions hectares are threatened by desertification, continental droughts and more extreme events will take place by 2100.
The increase of the temperature will have a direct impact on biodiversity, sea level rise, water resource and health. The sea level rise will damage fish habitats; there will be jelly fish outbreaks, a decrease in cold water species in coldest areas, an expansion of invasive species, and emergence of pathogens which altogether will threaten the food quality and quantity. A decrease of 30% is expected in the production of ecosystems. Oceans and seas will suffer from acidification, the land from erosion; there will also be a decrease of forests and an increase in fires due to the rise of temperature… The negative effects will know no boundaries.
Countries like Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Syria and Turkey, presented the impacts already felt as well as measures taken, i.e. R&D programs, encouraging public transport, use of biofuels, management of animal waste, etc. But, Mediterranean countries in the south have very few ongoing projects even though their potential is much higher.
Several contacts for future cooperation were made during the Seminar, both with Plan Bleu staff and representatives from Mediterranean countries, where discussions were focused on the possibility of creation of new MEPAs throughout the region to foster synergies.
Nonetheless, this Seminar left many questions unanswered; there are still many things to do. There must be greater cooperation between Mediterranean countries but also beyond. There is a need to do something concrete, rapidly efficient as there are financial means available. There is a wide consensus for the need for regional cooperation, for an information system, indicators regarding climate change and have full participation of scientists, politicians and NGOs. Plan Bleu is willing, together with the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development to organize regularly at the Mediterranean level conferences and seminars to exchange good practices methods and evaluate impacts.
One thing remains certain, the Mediterranean countries must act rapidly if this fragile region, sharing seas with three continents is to survive with its diversity and richness. And towards this challenge we all have also an opportunity to set an example.
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