It is no wonder that COP27, dubbed as the COP of Implementation, saw the very first Mediterranean Pavilion. Regional efforts and successes are beginning to carry more weight in the global climate context. The MedPavilion was a hub of activity, hosting 66 side events and becoming a meeting place for regional and non-regional colleagues to gather. The message amplified affirmed that solutions do exist! The transition to a circular economy that supports SCP is underway in the region, and the steps taken provide valuable input to other regions and the global climate process. We need to strengthen the links between the Circular Economy and its ability to contribute to climate change mitigation
On Monday 14 November, the Mediterranean Pavilion hosted the event: Propelling SMEs and businesses into a green future, organized by ENI CBC Med, which aimed to find “that magic formula between competitiveness and adapting to climate change and entering into the green world.” Moderator Vincent Ernoux (ENI CBC Med) affirmed that while this magic “is not easy, it is feasible.” As panelists explored how to support green business models, business members noted that interest in the green transition is based on good business opportunities. This reframing of the “problem” into an opportunity for “solutions” opened the sharing of successful blueprints to engage partnerships for successful commercialization.
Alessandro Miraglia, MedWaves, drew inspiration from concrete examples experienced under the MedWaves umbrella, underscoring the incredible opportunity presented by circular economies to avoid emissions, regenerate ecosystems, and contribute to livelihoods. He pointed out that working together as a region establishes a strong foundation where these benefits can be clustered, supported and scaled up. Highlighting the flagship programme under MedWaves, he explained how it is fueling the transition to a circular economy by directly engaging businesses in the region. The programme promotes cross-border cooperation with its specific methodologies that have been shaped and developed to generate benefits to people and the planet: training over 400 regional experts, half of which are women, to continue to share these blueprints for circular businesses and supporting the launch of over 300 green start-ups.
Alessandro Miraglia noted the value of having such a programme that supports engagement over a long period of time, remarking that the results have helped define the MedWaves theory of change. He reflected on examples of ENI CBC Med current projects, led by MedWaves that deliver positive investment for positive impacts from . He concluded with his clear thoughts that: “Cooperation is essential for a just circular economy transition. We need dialogue, we need coherence and we need synergies, if we want this circular economic transition to happen in a way that is inclusive and can deliver fair and equitable social economics.”
The side event on 16 November, Mediterranean Biodiversity challenges: acting against marine litter, was organised by Interreg Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community (MBPC), Interreg MED Programme, and UNIMED Mediterranean Universities Union . Magali Outters, MedWaves, joined other panellists to discuss science, policy and practice, seeking to address the challenges of marine litter in a manner that could highlight what knowledge available, as well as identify potential gaps remaining to tackle the cumulative threats to the Mediterranean as a biodiversity hotspot.
Triggered by the growing evidence that Marine Protected Areas are ‘over-impacted’ by the marine litter challenge, the discussion sought integrated policies to alleviate the impacts on marine life by encouraging regional-level measures and learning from ongoing experiences on the ground. Magali Outters shared effective measures taken, highlighting how the mandate of MedWaves directly tackles unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Drawing on experiences working directly with policy makers in the region, she highlighted: “There is no one-size fits all solution; there are many solutions that can be implemented at the policy level to reduce marine litter. The choice should be made considering local conditions.” She described possible measures, including information campaigns, eco-labelling, public-private agreements and consumption bans. Magali Outters drew specific attention to the need to develop a sound knowledge of production and consumption of plastic items at the local level in order to adequately assess appropriate policy measures, including their socio-economic impacts, as well as developing a complete understanding of potential sustainable alternatives as materials as well as the systems in which the materials are produced and consumed.
Realising circularity for a just transition towards net-zero economies in the Mediterranean was a side event hosted on 16 November, organised by MedWaves. Moderator Enrique de Villamore, Director MedWaves, initiated discussions, expressing this was “probably one of the most important side events taking place at this COP” due to the need to urgently link the current climate crisis with circular economy, by raising awareness on the contribution of circular strategies to climate change mitigation.
Tatjana Hema, UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan Coordinator – Barcelona Convention, welcomed participants, underscoring the need to focus on solutions by addressing the root cause of the triple planetary crisis. Referencing the commitment of Mediterranean countries in the Barcelona Convention to switch to sustainable SCP, she described the positive ripple effect of such practices on the planet, people and the economy. She also noted that this is not a new paradigm within the Convention, pointing out the efforts underway for the last 40 years. She clarified that the legally binding measures in place put the region “a step ahead” through its dedicated commitments.
Tatjana Hema shared important measures in place, such as the 2022-2027 Medium-Term Strategy (MTS), which clearly integrate circular economy as a key approach to reduce pollution, protect biodiversity and foster sustainable use of resources in the region. She noted the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, which integrates an SCP regional action plan with specific measures for 4 areas: food and fisheries, housing and construction, tourism and goods manufacturing. In the recent upgraded to the Protocol concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol), Tatjana Hema explained that the circular economy approach was integrated, shifting from cleaner production to more systemic solutions. She also celebrated MedWaves, which “takes very important steps to ensure that climate change is fully addressed in their operations.”
Magali Outters, MedWaves, introduced the climate change-circular economy nexus showcasing how this can create opportunity in the region. She reported that it is estimated that currently only 10% of our economy is circular, leaving a generous window for improvement . She stated that it is absolutely key to shift the way we consume and produce, and while the energy transition is significant, more emphasis should recognise the “untapped potential” of the circular economy – climate change nexus. This important shift will require policy coherence as well as sector specific approaches, and education.
Sergio Ponsá Salas, Director, BETA Technological Center, drew a focus on the value of a transition to a sustainable food system, recognising the central role of public administrators, governments and individuals in generating positive impacts. Rifat ünal Sayman, Chairman of REC Turkey (Resource, Environment and Climate Association), spoke of opportunities in the construction sector to reduce embedded emissions and increase materials efficiency. On the topic of the “climate cost” in fashion, Ayman El Zahaby, UNIDO national coordinator of SwitchMed/MED-TEST III, shared insights from working in the textile sector. Arnau Queralt, Director of the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS), concluded the session saying: “We need small and local transitions to circular economy, and we also need disruptive, large-scale transitions.”
The COP27 Solutions Day provided a perfect platform for the remaining side events in the MedPavilion. The Sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean – A rising tide which lifts all boats, organised by the Union for the Mediterranean, gathered two panels to respond to opportunities for solutions. Enrique de Villamore joined the panel discussing the sustainable Blue Economy as a driver and enabler for sustainable national and regional economies. He reflected that research and entrepreneurship have been the drivers of human development and encouraged to apply this type of ingenuity to address the current planetary challenges. He shared how the work of Medwaves supporting eco-entrepreneurs in developing green and blue economic models has resulted in conclusions: the Mediterranean region has the potential at being at the forefront of the blue and green economy; support within countries continues to need to be strengthened; and challenges of financial support remain, specifically for green and blue entrepreneurs.
The MedWaves organised event on 1.5 Degree Lifestyle: sustainable consumption policies enabling actions in the Mediterranean also convened on Solutions Day. Alessandro Miraglia welcomed participants who “believe that a sustainable lifestyle is more than individual choices, and understand that sustainable consumption can be an opportunity for climate and social justice” to join discussions. He outlined the necessary steps to work alongside negotiations in meeting the 1.5 goal, highlighting a need for a social consumption based accounting system to identify opportunities for mitigating emissions.
Tatjana Hema, UNEP/MAP Coordinator welcomed participants, framing discussions by explaining that climate change impacts do not affect everyone in the same way, calling for “new forms of governance to be envisaged in order to achieve a new category of welfare able to cope with growth and structural problems.” Enrique de Villamore, Director, MedWaves, opened the window to explore the demand-side and behaviour change mitigation pathways. Panellists shared concrete examples of consumption-based policies and practices enabling 1.5-degree lifestyles and related governance enablers, including: Lewis Akenji, Hot or Cool Institute – Managing Director; Tarek Alkhoury, UNEP; Pilar Chiva, Catalan Waste Agency – Director of Circular Economy; Mohamed Samy, Founder and CEO, GO BIKE; Harris Eyre, Lead, Brain Capital Alliance; and Ahmed Yassine, Young Mediterranean Voices Ambassador.
The day closed with the side event: Promoting green & blue growth innovation in the Mediterranean: adopting circular economy strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation organised by Interreg MED Programme and UNIMED. Magali Outters joined others to debate why green and blue innovation should move forward together and the role of public authorities in adopting circular economy strategies. She concluded the need for a circular economy, which demands a systemic change.
Side events serve an important function to Climate Talks. These smaller meetings provided a space to both digest ongoing climate processes as well share experiences and resources, creating a momentum to inform decision makers. The events that took place in the MedPavilion touched on policy, showcased successful initiatives and explored the science underpinning actions.
In 2023, MedWaves is ready to strengthen its efforts and its impact in the region, in particular through the implementation of 3 important upcoming regional initiatives supporting innovation: 2 new governance projects of the Interreg Euro-MED Programme and the Blue Mission Med, a H2020 project aiming to support the EU Mission Restore our Oceans and Waters by 2030 by providing a holistic and coherent framework for developing a systemic approach to the depollution and regeneration of the basin hydrosphere, which is a striking need in the Mediterranean Sea (MED).
More about the 2 new governance projects of the Interreg Euro-MED Programme:
The MedPavilion received the support and funding of the Government of Catalonia and the EU-funded SwitchMed programme.