An alliance of European environmental organisations which includes BirdLife Malta has adopted a declaration to designate the Mediterranean Sea an Emission Control Area (ECA) to limit air pollution from ships.
The alliance, which was founded in 2016, gathers NGOs mainly from the Mediterranean region such as Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece but also beyond such as Brussels based Transport & Environment and NABU (BirdLife Germany). The declaration followed a one-day international Mediterranean Shipping Conference held yesterday in Rome in which the name “Rome Declaration” was chosen.
The initiative comes at a significant time after France reportedly undertook a bold attempt to push for a Mediterranean ECA at a European Council working party meeting in early March. Ideally, such a step would encompass emission control areas for sulphur (SECA) and nitrogen oxides (NECA) likewise but also explicitly address particulate matter and black carbon emissions.
In a letter sent to Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Joe Mizzi, BirdLife Malta has put the issue forward to the Maltese Government as a national concern due to Malta’s crucial role as the EU’s largest ship registry, having a strategic geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea and with a constantly growing number of port calls over the past decades. This would then place the Government as an important stakeholder in future negotiations on this topic.
A sustainable policy framework to achieve these objectives requires coordination with different government authorities, including the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change. The sustainable development of the maritime sector in Malta and the EU (under the National Integrated Maritime Strategy) as a priority of the Maltese EU Presidency serves as one example reflecting the urgent need of coherent policy development, due to its focus on a holistic approach of marine transport and protection of the marine environment.
As the issue of air pollution is also a matter of health concerning not only Maltese but also European citizens, BirdLife Malta called on the Ministry to officially support the declaration of an ECA in the Mediterranean Sea.
NABU CEO Leif Miller stated: “The designation of the Mediterranean Sea is a long overdue step to reduce air pollution from ships in the region significantly. It is unacceptable that people and the environment in Southern Europe still suffer from the marine sector’s exhaust gas emissions while the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel have much tighter standards in place since years.” Miller said environmentalists and community groups in port cities from various Mediterranean countries very much welcomed the latest initiative from the French Government and urged their governments to step up the plate and to support this approach.
Campaign spokesperson and NABU Transport Policy Officer Daniel Rieger said: “We cannot accept any excuses for a further postponement of tighter emission standards for ships in Southern Europe as major shipping routes from Asia to Europe cross the Mediterranean Sea and ship traffic is expected to grow by up to 250% until 2050. Moreover we face a situation where the region is home to some of Europe’s most popular cruise destinations with a steadily increasing number of calls and subsequent local air pollution problems. Also intense solar radiation, especially during summer time, in combination with air pollutants causes health damaging smog and ground-level ozone”.
The establishment of a Mediterranean ECA would restore the level playing field in the single European market where ship operators and ports in the south need to face the same regulatory requirements as in the north. It would also stimulate the uptake of low-emission technologies and transfer of necessary know-how within the European Union, thus enhancing leadership in technology and job creation in the maritime industry. Therefore, tighter emission standards in the Mediterranean are also a vital guarantor to ensure the sustainability of the EU’s maritime sector and its economic competitiveness.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here. Click here for more information on the Mediterranean ECA project and here to read more about the ‘Together Against Air Pollution’ initiative.