The EU, in collaboration with the countries of the Mediterranean rim, is committed to redoubling its efforts to protect the environment around the Mediterranean, in particular by becoming a zone of control of sulfur emissions. By 2025, the Mediterranean could become the fourth emissions control area to join Northern Europe in efforts to mandate the use of low-sulfur marine fuels.
The decision came at a meeting of members of the 25-year-old United Nations Barcelona Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean. The convention, which was first adopted in 1976, includes 22 parties with the EU and eight EU Mediterranean member states as well as cooperation from countries around the Mediterranean.
Following last week’s meeting, the group voted in favor of the designation of a Sulfur Emission Control Zone (ZCE) across the region. A wide range of NGOs has long been advocated for this action. In the language accepted by the signatories to the convention, ships sailing across the Mediterranean would only use low sulfur fuels. It calls for a much stricter standard of just 0.1 percent compared to the global standard and 0.5 percent sulfur levels currently.
“Our commitment today demonstrates the will to work with our non-European partners to achieve high standards of environmental protection in accordance with our European Green Agreement,” said Virginijus Sinkevi? Ius, European Commissioner for the Environment, at the oceans and fishing. âI am particularly proud that all contracting parties have agreed to designate the Mediterranean as a sulfur emission control area in order to protect the health of millions of Mediterranean citizens and their marine environment from pollution from ships.
The Union for the Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity (NABU), an NGO that had been at the forefront of efforts to secure the adoption of the ACE, explained that the Barcelona Convention decided in 2019 of a roadmap to declare the Mediterranean Sea a sulfur emission control zone. The NGOs feared that the convention would delay actions.
The Barcelona Convention had previously agreed to work on the ECA proposal through the IMO. The next step will therefore be to ask the IMO to add the resolution at the next meeting in October 2022 of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MPEC). Adoption of the MPEC would pave the way for the start of the ACE in 2025.
The ECA proposal was part of a declaration endorsing a new strategy for 2022-2027 to achieve a healthy, clean, sustainable and climate-resilient Mediterranean Sea. They agreed on a total of 18 decisions, including two regional plans to combat marine litter and urban wastewater, as well as their budgets.