What is the challenge at stake?
Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is a paramount objective and prerequisite for a blue, sustainable development allowing economic growth to decouple from environmental depletion and growing consumption of natural resources. Current patterns of economic development in western Mediterranean riparian countries are characterised by resource-intensive production processes as well as consumption intensive lifestyles, which exert considerable pressures on local and regional ecosystems, contributing to resource scarcity (water, energy, raw materials), pollution, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions. A large part of the pollution in the western Mediterranean (out of which, 80% originates from land-based sources) is caused by inefficient industrial processes and poor management of waste. Environmental and social externalities, addressed, partially or not at all, of the many activities carried out in the region, by market and policies, may offset the incomes and benefits they provide.
Taking into account environmental degradation and climate change, cost-effective opportunities exist for countries to develop eco-efficient economies: the way in which goods and services are produced, sold and consumed needs to be redesigned with the objective to drive the revitalisation of the industrial and socio-economic development towards zero-waste, low-carbon, resource efficient, socially inclusive, green (and blue) circular economies.
What are the persisting problems and gaps identified?
During the last decades, much progress has been made towards SCP in the Mediterranean region as a whole through the work of the UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention, culminating in the recent adoption by the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention of a series of decisions on the SCP Action Plan, the Implementation of the Marine Litter Action Plan and the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2025. At the EU level, an important development is the adoption of the Circular Economy Package1, yet not specifically applying to the coastal, marine or maritime sectors. The recently adopted General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) mid-term strategy2 will help in ensuring more sustainable harvesting practices of marine living resources. Many western Mediterranean countries are making progress in identifying SCP patterns as a priority in their national policy agendas. The implementation of SCP practices already shows positive environmental, social and economic impacts with tangible and achievable co-benefits for for climate change and direct improvement on cross-cutting issues as water and energy efficiency, land use, mobility and pollution. Overall, the transition to a green and low- emissions economy is providing real opportunities for preserving natural resources, job creation, improvement of the quality of life for all and a sustainable future.
However, many challenges still hinder the decisive shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns. These are linked to a number of features such as SCP legislation/regulatory frameworks, including sustainable procurement and in particular public procurement, which disposes of a major potential to shift to more sustainable production patterns through sustainable government consumption itself, but also through governments’ role-setting for the private sector and through the creation of new markets for sustainable products; or improvement of business competitiveness through the transfer of environmentally sound technologies; or adjustment of adequate economic and financial instruments so as to meet the needs of eco-entrepreneurs and investors.
Eco-innovation is helping in developing new sustainable products and services, since environmental impacts occur at all stages in the life cycles of products and materials, being often connected to land use, combustion of fuels, industrial processes, dispersive use of materials (e.g., fertilizers), or resource extraction (including biomass and minerals).
Looking at the consumption side, education and awareness throughout the region, as well as actions (including incentives) aimed at changing life styles, consumers’ behavioural responses, together with overall civil society empowerment, are instrumental in shifting towards sustainable consumption and production patterns.