Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean and circular economy on the agenda of journalists’ meeting in Barcelona

The huge issue of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean region, ways to tackle it by introducing common policies and actions and the circular economy as the answer to the problem were on the agenda of the 3rd meeting of 50 environmental journalists and scientists from 20 countries who gathered in Barcelona 13-14 November.

The journalists from news agencies of the Mediterranean region had the opportunity to exchange ideas and suggestions with researchers and experts in the field, NGOs, and international institutions and to be briefed on the latest developments regarding the situation in the Mediterranean and also on the EU’s policies and strategies on the single plastic use.

The event was promoted by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and was hosted at the Union’s headquarters in the city of Barcelona, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in collaboration with the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies (AMAN) and EFEverde of the EFE Agency.

The meeting is a follow-up to the meetings in Malaga and Marrakech.

During the two-day event the discussions and debates focused on how serious the issue of plastic pollution is in the region and on the enormous challenges all the countries are faced with in trying to deal with it. It was highlighted that 95% of all the waste in the Mediterranean is plastic. The challenges also derive from the fact that there is not a homogenous policy in all countries in dealing with the issue, the infrastructure varies as well as the mentality of the people. The energy demand in the region, energy from RES, green jobs and circular economy were also discussed during the meeting.

The participants were briefed on the EU strategy on plastic. According to data, in 2015 the demand for plastics in the EU was 49 million tonnes and 59% of this plastic was packaging. It was also said that 50% of plastic wastes in the sea were single use plastic such as straws, plastic cutlery and plates, plastic lids and bags. The EU aims to completely ban some single use plastic for which there are alternatives for the consumers.

In his closing remarks UfM SG Nasser Kamel stressed that climate change and plastic pollution are key issues for the countries of the region and that there needs to be joint action in dealing with the issue. He also said that transition to circular economy must be associated with the creation of jobs. These issues, he said, are not issues of the distant future, but of today and their management should be immediate and effective. Kamel also spoke of the need to mobilize local and national authorities and the EU and added that social cohesion and economic development should also be of our priority.

He noted that UfM has more than 30,000 partners and 55 projects are now underway with a total budget of 5.3 billion euro.

George Penintaex, Secretary General of the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies (AMAN) , Director of Cyprus News Agency and Arturo Larena, Director of EFE Verde at the EFE News Agency, also addressed the event and highlighted the environmental and climate dangers of the region and their enormous impact on the local communities. They also spoke about the role of the press and how the journalists need to have access to sources and scientific data.

Antonio Troya, director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation said that the Mediterranean sea plays such a critical role in our economy, and is both a tourism and conservation hotspot filled with rich biodiversity. We cannot afford to continue turning our ocean into a vast, contaminated plastic soup, he said.

In his statements, Jorge Borrego, UfM Senior Deputy Secretary-General for Energy and Climate Action said that the Mediterranean is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. He added that promoting a collective response from the countries of the region to these challenges is at the heart of the Union for the Mediterranean’s mandate.

As part of the activities organised during these two days, journalists, scientists and experts yesterday paid a visit to the Switchmed Connect’s exhibition on The Circular Economy in the Mediterranean region. The exhibition showcases impactful stories from the SwitchMed programme, an initiative that supports and connects stakeholders to scale-up social and eco innovations in the Mediterranean.

Source: Cyprus News Agency