Overcoming financial barriers for the deployment of renewable energies in regional energy markets would enable more investments.
What are the biggest societal challenges you see when looking around the Mediterranean?
In the last decade, our region has gone through a long and difficult transition. There are many pressing challenges linked to uncontrolled migration, terrorism, radicalization, security, but also of socio-economic nature, such as unemployment and gender inequality. These challenges are not present along the southern Mediterranean shore only, but on the northern shore as well, where successive waves of migrants and refugees are posing a serious humanitarian and security dilemma. Youth unemployment exceeds 35% in some countries.
Our societies must also realize the dire consequences of uncontrolled environmental degradation and the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean and initiate the transformation to mitigate and adapt to these challenges. Despite the challenges, the story behind the figures is one of legitimate aspiration of our people for a better quality of life. As such, young people and women are at the very heart of all the UfM activities as it engages with governments, public authorities, private sector entities, academia, NGOs and other actors to streamline the regional efforts and build the needed synergies to affront the multitude of challenges, always with the firm mindset that considers regional cooperation not as a matter of choice, but rather as a matter of fact.
The 43 UfM member countries adopted the Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy in 2015.
What are some of the biggest investment opportunities you see opening around the sea?
According to OECD forecasts, by 2030 the “blue economy” could outperform the growth of the global economy as a whole in terms of value added and employment. This explains why investors are increasingly looking at the oceans for new opportunities.
The Mediterranean Sea already generates important annual economic value, which represents a key contribution to unemployment and poverty reduction while offering attractive investment opportunities, in particular in sectors such as tourism, shipping, fishery/aquaculture and energy.
Suffice it to say that today we have a reality to point to, as tourism already contributes to almost 5% of the current regional GDP; while sectors such as off-shore wind energy are expected to increase exponentially in the next decades. Off-shore wind energy represents a great opportunity for the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions – the production potential has been calculated to be 34 times more than in neighboring northern countries.
In this context and following the Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy, adopted by the 43 UfM Member countries in 2015, the UfM is working hard to make the best use of the blue economy’s potential in order to promote growth and employment as well as to facilitate investments while safeguarding healthy seas within a clear “vision” for the sustainable and integrated development of the marine and maritime sectors.
How can water scarcity best be addressed by countries bordering the Middle/White Sea?
UfM Ministers acknowledged the region- al challenge of water scarcity in the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Water in April 2017. In their declaration, Ministers called for the elaboration of “a Union for the Mediterranean Water Agenda to enhance regional coopera- tion towards sustainable and integrated water management in the UfM region.” There is a common agreement on the importance of regional cooperation to provide added value to national initiatives tackling this challenge. We can deploy joint efforts to learn from each other’s experiences, best practices and pilot projects in a series of important areas such as the Nexus policy approaches, Climate change adaptation and water, as well as water investments and their link to foster job creation and resilience to migration influxes. At the same time, we can work together to leverage financial resources in the region to increase financing for the water sector, thus contributing to meeting the ambitious goals set by the UN SDGs, in particular SDG 6 on “Clean Water and Sanitation.”
How could renewables and energy efficiency be more widely deployed around the sea?
The decreasing costs of renewable tech- nologies and decarbonization policies have resulted already in an increase in clean energy technology investments on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Eastern and southern Mediterranean countries have yet to follow this trend, as the region’s electricity generation mix continues to be mainly based on fossil fuels. Addressing financial barriers to the deployment of renewable energies in regional energy markets would enable more investments. Regional cooperation is key to overcome these barriers and this is where the UfM Energy Platforms play a key role.
The UfM Regional Electricity Market Platform aims to integrate progressively the energy systems and markets of the Mediterranean; it works to enhance electricity exchanges and interconnections in order to achieve a secure, affordable and sustainable electricity supply for the benefit of citizens and economies in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The UfM Renewable Energy Market Platform aims to promote the progressive deployment of renewable energies and energy efficiency measures, in order to foster socio-economic development, contribute to ensure that all citizens and businesses of the region have access to reliable modern energy services, as well as to support mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Do you envision the creation of a water and energy community for regional cooperation?
Let us start by recognizing the close interdependency of the water and energy sectors. Water is required for energy production; energy is required for water distribution and sanitation, and for water production as well, through reuse and desalination. Creating an energy and water community is not a choice or something to include in an official document that needs to be endorsed and signed; it is more and more the standard practice for planning. All regional efforts undertaken to deal with this interdependency are most welcome.