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New partnership to support sustainable blue economy in Mediterranean Sea

© Shutterstock / Veranika848Post Thumbnail

At COP27, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) established the Blue Mediterranean Partnership, which intends to create a new financial vehicle to provide funding for sustainable blue economy projects.

  • Three European organisations are joining forces to foster a sustainable blue economy in the European Union’s Southern Neighbourhood countries.
  • The partnership intends to create a new financial vehicle to help close an estimated €6 billion investment gap in the next eight years.
  • The Mediterranean Sea needs immediate action as it is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, over-fishing, pollution and climate change.

Partners respond to various blue economy commitment at EU level

The Blue Mediterranean Partnership is intended to support the development of a sustainable blue economy in the European Union’s Southern Neighbourhood countries: Egypt – the host of COP27 – Jordan and Morocco.

The initiative is the response of EBRD, EIB and UfM to EU-level commitments to fully integrate the blue economy into the Green Deal, the priorities outlined in the EU’s new Agenda for the Mediterranean, the Union for the Mediterranean ministerial declaration on sustainable blue economy and the UfM blue economy agenda. 

It addresses the environmental challenges faced by the Mediterranean region, a marine biodiversity hotspot and a key source of economic activities for 480 million people living in 22 countries. It is the fifth largest economy in the region after France, Italy, Spain and Turkey, generating $450 billion annually.

UfM secretary general Nasser Kamel said: “We are raising the bar on our collective ambitions of governments, civil society, research and the private sectors to ensure that maritime activities are sustainable, innovative and job-creation oriented and address the main challenges of our times. At the same time, we are also tackling important drivers for the recovery from the pandemic and for the long-term restructuring of the sector “.

Plugging the €6 billion investment gap

The partnership will establish a new financial vehicle that will help close a €6 billion investment gap in the next eight years. This gap was estimated by the EIB and EBRD following a preliminary assessment of Blue Economy-related opportunities in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, across sectors such as coastal resilience, wastewater management, solid waste management, maritime transport and aquaculture and fisheries. 

EIB and EBRD identified potential investment opportunities by reviewing documents and reports received from stakeholders in the target countries, as well as interviews with the stakeholders. The projects were initially prioritised in the pipeline based on their maturity level. The pipeline will be finalised in the run-up to a pledging event for the Blue Mediterranean Partnership, expected to take place in 2023.

The Blue Mediterranean Partnership plans to fill the gap by bringing together international donors, beneficiary countries, interested financial institutions and philanthropies in support of policy reforms, attracting donor funding and mobilising public and private investments. The first projects are expected to take place in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

It plans to support and attract investments in the sustainable blue economy and policy reforms, prioritising innovation and including natural capital and nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation where possible. This will include financing of wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste management and plastic waste reduction, which will help reduce pollution going to the sea, decrease pressure on fisheries through sustainable aquaculture, improve coastal resilience investments, and reduce emissions through sustainable marine mobility.

The partnership will promote the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles, a guiding framework for aligning investments with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, life below water

Urgent action is needed to limit degradation of Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is at risk of habitat loss and degradation, over-fishing, pollution and climate change. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, it is polluted by around 730 tonnes of plastic waste every day and municipal solid waste generation has been on the rise since 2014, with no sign of abating.

Coastal population and unsustainable tourism are the main drivers of plastic waste generation and marine litter. There have been improvements in water reuse, wastewater treatment and collection of municipal solid waste, but they are not enough to halt the degradation.

The region is also home to more than 17,000 marine species, estimated to be 4-18% of the world’s known marine species. Around a third of them are endemic, which means they are native to the area. Due to pollution, overfishing and climate change it is expected that over 30 endemic species will become extinct by 2100. This is after 41% of top predators were lost between 1950 and 2011.

This suggests the need for urgent action. Initiatives such as the Blue Mediterranean Partnership can play an important part as they unlock financing while bringing together various organisations across countries in the area. This is key as none of them exists in a vacuum, but they are all closely interconnected.

In the words of EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso: “Oceans are life. The Mediterranean has been the cradle in which our societies have been born and flourished. It is source of life, wealth and prosperity, therefore its protection is of major relevance to all of us.” 

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