Earth Hour 2020 - Raise your voice for a healthy Mediterranean Sea and coast

Started by WWF and partners as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world's largest grassroots movements for the environment. Held every year on the last Saturday of March, Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 180 countries, switching off their lights to show support for our planet. 

Earth Hour goes beyond the symbolic action of switching lights off and has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact.

By taking part in Earth Hour, the Mediterranean Action Plan of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) aims to raise public awareness about the need to alleviate pressure on Mediterranean marine and coastal ecosystems, including from the impacts of climate change.

In this Super Year for Nature and Biodiversity, the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system calls for a “Super Year for the Mediterranean Sea and Coast” based on the strong commitment voiced by the Contracting Parties in the Naples Ministerial Declaration in four priority areas for action: marine litter, climate change, biodiversity and the blue economy.

On Earth Hour 2020, we ask you to raise your voice for nature and call for bold action to protect ecosystems and biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. Let us switch-off lights for an hour and pollution for life by adopting lifestyle choices that reduce plastic waste in the Mediterranean, one of the most marine litter-affected regional seas in the world.

How you can help

  • If you are on social media, take part in the digital campaign by tagging @EarthHour and using #EarthHour and #BarcelonaConvention hashtags in your posts. Use the facts and figures provided below to spread the word about the plight of Mediterranean ecosystems.
     
  • Add the Earth Hour logo to your website and social media profile and add Earth Hour digital banners to your website. Click on this link to download Earth Hour communication kit.
     
  • Switch off your lights for an hour on Saturday, 28 March 2020 at 8:30 pm (local time). 
     
  • Switch off” plastic waste by seeking alternatives in food packaging, abandoning single-use plastic bags and reducing marine litter.
     
  • Join us in applauding action by two Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and Coastal Regions of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention):

    Montenegro where the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism recently halted the procurement and use of certain plastics such as straws or stirrers, opting for tap water in glass jugs instead of bottled. 

    Tunisia where a ban on single-use plastic bags in supermarkets entered into force on 1 March 2020. Click here for more.

Remember that your choices matter. Encourage your friends, colleagues and audiences to actively participate in Earth Hour.

Know the facts

Ecosystems under pressure

  • The Mediterranean region is home to more than 510 million people representing seven per cent of world’s population. One third of its inhabitants live near the sea along the coastal region of the Mediterranean.
     
  • More than 20 per cent of global maritime traffic transits through the Mediterranean Sea, exposing ecosystems to risks of sea-based pollution and coastal populations to health hazards caused by air pollution from ships.
     
  • The Mediterranean ranks among the top tourist destinations in the world. International arrivals sextupled since 1970, reaching 337 million in 2017. Cruising tripled since 2000, reaching 28 million passenger movements in 2018. According to this WWF report, summer tourism generates a 30 per cent waste increase in some coastal municipalities.

The plastic addiction is harming nature in the Mediterranean

  • One of the largest amounts of floating litter, reaching 64 million items/km2, was recorded in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that 0,5 billion items are lying on the Mediterranean seafloor with densities sometimes exceeding 100,000 items/ km2.
     
  • The Mediterranean Sea receives waste from coastal zones and from rivers flowing through major cities. An estimated 200 tons of plastic are thrown into the sea each year. Experts call it “riverine input”.
     
  • Plastic accounts for 90 per cent of floating marine litter and for 70 per cent of marine litter lying on the seafloor.
  • Most of the marine litter found on beaches originates from beach recreational activities. An analysis conducted in 2016 on 33 beaches indicated that only five types of marine litter items, mostly single-use plastics (cutlery/trays/straws, cigarette butts, lids, plastic bottles and shopping bags) represent more than 60 per cent of the total recorded marine litter on beaches.
  • Ingested microplastic particles can leach out chemicals, including persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances, which can be harmful to human development, reproduction and nervous systems.

We can beat marine litter

Marine litter went down by 39 per cent compared to the 2016 baseline values, according to a preliminary analysis undertaken by UNEP/MAP in November 2019. The analysis considered data provided by 13 Mediterranean countries, including results obtained from the implementation of 20 medium-size adopt-a-beach pilots implemented by UNEP/MAP in 10 countries. Adopt-a-beach is a stewardship scheme centered around community awareness and participation in litter prevention and cleaning activities guided by a standardized method developed by UNEP/MAP.

The Mediterranean hosts unique habitats and species but an oversized human development footprint is crushing biodiversity 

  • The Mediterranean Sea is the most overfished in the world, with 62 per cent of its fish stocks now overfished and at serious risk of being depleted, according to this FAO report.
  • Lost or discarded fishing gear and other abandoned fishing equipment are responsible for “ghost fishing” that traps organisms and further depletes fish stocks. One way ghost fishing is perpetuated is by the trapped and dead animals acting as bait attracting and potentially entrapping more organisms.
     
  • Up to 80 per cent of marine turtles are affected by litter in certain areas around the Mediterranean.

Climate change impact is an additional burden on Mediterranean ecosystems

  • The Mediterranean region has warmed by approximately 1.5°C since pre-industrial times, 20 per cent faster than the global average, according to MedECC – a science-policy interface that UNEP/MAP supports through its Regional Activity Centre Plan Bleu.
     
  • Seawater acidification and increased sea temperature have already caused a loss of 41 per cent of top predators, including marine mammals.
     
  • Sea level rise is projected to vary from 0.45 m to more than 2 m by 2100.
     
  • The extent and intensity of jellyfish outbreaks have been helped by increasing water temperature rises turning them into a pest-like species as they are found in uncommon numbers and disrupt ecosystems.

On World Wildlife Day (3 March), we expressed alarm at the relentless stress that unsustainable human activities and overexploitation of natural resources are exerting on biodiversity in Mare Nostrum. Read the article here.

Date of Article: 
Friday, March 20, 2020