COP23 of the Barcelona Convention: “Green transition in the Mediterranean: from decisions to actions”, Slovenia 5-8 December 2023

Statement by MedWet


Thank you, Madame President,

(Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues ….)

I am making this statement on behalf of MedWet, the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative of the Ramsar Convention.

The conclusions of the MedECC Special Report on Climate and Environmental Coastal Risks in the Mediterranean to be presented at this COP are alarming. Mediterranean countries are not on track to meet their commitments toward the Sustainable Development Goals translated into the 2016-2025 Mediterranean Strategy on Sustainable Development adopted by the Parties to the Barcelona Convention. They are also falling short in meeting their commitments toward the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, in particular putting in place effective measures of mitigation and adaptation to climate change effects as part of their national determined contributions. Moreover, these NDCs need to be effectively implemented and should lead to real and measurable outcomes in terms of reducing emissions and enhancing resilience to climate change.

But beyond the fulfilment of international obligations, what is really at stake is the survival of Mediterranean communities, their economies and the natural ecosystems upon which they depend. As revealed by the MedECC report, The Mediterranean Region is 20% more affected by climate change than the rest of the World. Mediterranean coastal areas, in particular, hosting today one-third of the Mediterranean population, are at the forefront of climate change. These fragile ecosystems, already under pressure of unsustainable human activities, are increasingly threatened by floods, coastal inundations, drought, erosion, forest fires and water scarcity.

The MedECC report report underscores the urgent need to conserve and restore coastal wetlands, because of their great potential in mitigating and adapting to climate change, the carbon sequestration capacity of coastal wetlands being about 10 times that of terrestrial ecosystems., However, these vital ecosystems are currently undermanaged and inadequately protected.

Regrettably, almost 50% of wetlands in the Mediterranean basin have disappeared since 1970, Furthermore, 36% of Mediterranean wetland species are now threatened with extinction and 95% of the coastal wetlands hosting more than 50,000 waterbirds are threatened with submersion due to accelerated sea level rise. Today, the Mediterranean wetland ecosystems are among the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world.

The state of degradation of these essential vital ecosystems has reached a critical point where mere conservation measures are no longer enough. Transformative change, in particular restoration schemes, are needed now, across sectors and at all levels of society and authority to maintain and secure the vital ecosystem services they provide to Mediterranean people and biodiversity.

Aware of the urgency to act, MedWet together with Tour du Valat and ETC-UMA and in the context of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), ,  has prepared and introduced a specific resolution to upgrade the restoration of wetlands as a nature-based solution: the Resolution XIV.17 on “The protection, conservation, restoration, sustainable use and management of wetland ecosystems in addressing climate change” that was adopted at COP14 of the Ramsar Convention in December 2022.

In turn, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KM-GBF) adopted by 192 countries at CBD COP15 in December 2022 explicitly included wetlands in Target 2 on restoration, and Target 3 on protected areas (30% of terrestrial and marine areas under protection by 2030).

The GBF is therefore providing a powerful new global mandate for the upscaling of wetland conservation, restoration, and sustainable use, and for cross-government, society-wide approaches, including a stronger involvement of local communities and the private sector to boost implementation.

It gives a unique opportunity to secure the inclusion of ambitious wetland targets and policies in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and their effective implementation, to meet combined commitments under the CBD, the Ramsar Convention, the Barcelona Convention and its protocols and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In this favourable policy context, concerned about the ongoing loss and the continuous degradation of Mediterranean coastal wetlands and the growing risks associated with climate change for coastal communities, economies and natural ecosystems, MedWet would like to bring the attention of the Contracting Parties and the Secretariat to the following urgent priorities:

  • to incorporate and promote the coastal wetlands conservation and restoration as Nature-Based -Solutions as an urgent priority for the effective implementation of the current and future programme of work of the Convention, in particular, the ICZM Protocol and the Mediterranean region’s own post-2020 Biodiversity Framework (SAPBIO)
  • To fully integrate wetland conservation and restoration into coastal land-use planning, and address together biodiversity loss, coastal erosion, wetland degradation, water abstraction and climate change as priority objectives in the coming years
  • to promote the development of local governance schemes, including all local stakeholders and administrative authorities, to develop local ownership of wetlands and local incentives for wetland conservation, restoration and sustainable use of coastal wetlands
  • to enhance partnerships and multi-stakeholder engagement, including with the private sector and science policy interface to protect and restore Mediterranean Wetlands
  • to mainstream the restoration of wetlands, as a concrete contribution of the Mediterranean Region to the achievement of targets 2 and 3 of the CBD KMGBF, and to include it into the Ministerial Declaration to be adopted at this COP
  • to develop synergies with relevant international conventions and decisions such as the Ramsar Convention, the CBD and the GBF, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement to upgrade and promote wetland restoration and sustainable use
  • to improve and share the knowledge base on wetland extent and condition, especially for the Eastern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean Basin, to assess progress in, to reinforce and put in place effective implementation of wetland conservation, restoration and management activities
  • to accelerate the restoration of Mediterranean wetlands by promoting ambitious, large-scale and integrated sustainable water management and hydro-morphological restoration measures of the entire connected watershed
  • to implement pilot projects on wetlands restoration in the framework of the ICZM Protocol and the SAPBIO
  • to identify, upscale and replicate successful wetland restoration projects in the Mediterranean to other sites designated as priorities for restoration; and ensure coordinated actions at the regional level to exchange good practices and lessons learnt, in particular through existing networks
  • to promote the coordination of efforts of existing Mediterranean research and conservation organisations and networks, such as those united under the Mediterranean Consortium for Biodiversity, for coastal ecosystem restoration through an integrated multibiome approach such as the RESCOM project
  • to adopt financial incentives and allocate sufficient funds for coastal wetlands restoration, capacity building and public awareness for local authorities and other relevant stakeholders
  • to approach the European Union, other funding institutions and the private sector to allocate substantial financial support to contracting Parties and other Mediterranean frameworks to support wetland restoration requesting substantial and long-term investments

Thank you!

Marianne Courouble, MedWet Policy Officer