The Blue Mediterranean Partnership was launched at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt by the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Union for the Mediterranean.
Efforts to create a more joined-up approach to cleaning up, protecting and conserving waters in the Mediterranean region have taken a step forward with the launch of an initiative led by regional financial institutions and backed by the European Commission to channel finance into blue economy projects.
The Blue Mediterranean Partnership (BMP) was launched at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). France’s AFD and Germany’s KfW are among development institutions backing the initiative. The partners say the BMP enjoys wide political support.
The BMP is designed as a vehicle to pool finance from donor countries, financial institutions, philanthropists and beneficiary countries in the southern Mediterranean region. This will provide capital expenditure and technical assistance grants for sustainable projects linked to the blue economy. It will initially seek to attract donor funding, mobilise public and private financing and support policy reforms in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.
Around 480 million people living in the region’s 22 countries create annual economic value of more than $450bn, according to the partners, but that economy is under threat.
The BMP aims to help narrow “an estimated €6bn investment gap” over the next eight years, which the partners say needs to be filled to arrest the decline of biodiversity in the Mediterranean basin and safeguard the health of region’s economy, which is being jeopardised by environmental degradation and habitat loss.
To do that, the BMP says it will prioritise innovation and, where possible, natural capital and nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation. Targeted areas include wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste management and plastic waste reduction to reduce pollution entering the sea, sustainable aquaculture to reduce pressure on fisheries, coastal resilience investments, and the reduction of emissions from marine transport.
The partners say the initiative represents a response to a call from the EU to pay more heed to maritime issues as part of wider environmental and climate change action – effectively taking more action on the sustainable blue economy as part of the EU’s Green Deal.
EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso described the creation of the BMP as “a call for action from our partner countries and the European Commission”.
UfM Secretary General Nasser Kamel said the partnership was “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”. The UfM is an intergovernmental organization including all EU countries and 15 non-EU countries bordering the Mediterranean and nearby seas that aims to foster regional cooperation.
Blue economy initiatives
The BMP will use the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles (SBEFP) as a framework for its activities. The UN-backed SBEPP, launched in 2018, provide guidelines for blue economy investments by banks, insurers and investors to ensure they are aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) relating to life below water.
For a country like Jordan, which has a short coast on the Red Sea, adjacent to the Mediterranean, the BMP offers the promise of increased finance and support with policy reforms to help the country solve a water crisis that is fast becoming acute.
“Jordan’s access to seas is restricted and therefore extremely precious. There is an urgent need in the country for comprehensive integrated water resources and solid waste management, including sustainable desalination, to protect our precious water ecosystems and resources,” Nayef Bakheet, chief commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority said.
The BMP is the latest in a fast-growing list of blue economy initiatives being taken by public, private and philanthropic institutions that reflect escalating concern over the risk that degradation of global maritime and freshwater environments is not receiving as much attention as that of land-based initiatives.
Delegates at the UN Ocean Conference held in Lisbon in September said SDG14 remained the most underfunded of the UN’s SDGs. There have also been warnings that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups operating in the blue economy are struggling to get adequate investment.
In a bid to help rectify these shortfalls, the European Commission and the European Investment Fund said they would direct €500m to a new equity fund for the blue economy, bringing the EU’s total financial commitment to the sector to €1.5bn.
Targeted investments from public-private alliances are also flowing. For example, in September, Ocean 14 Capital told Impact Investor how its impact fund focused on investments in growth-stage blue economy businesses in aquaculture, alternative proteins, plastic waste pollution reduction, fisheries and seaweed had raised €100m with a target of €150m. Meanwhile, SWEN Capital Partners said in October that its Blue Ocean Fund, which invests in innovative start-ups working on solutions to overfishing, pollution or climate change, has exceeded a funding target of €120m.