This year the Mediterranean Coast Day was celebrated on September 25 at Gammarth, Tunisia, with focus on climate variability and change, organised in the framework of the project “Integration of climatic variability and change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean” (ClimVar project) – a complementary project to the overall GEF/UNEP Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (the MedPartnership) initiative - designed to support the implementation of the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean. Unusually for this time of the year, it was raining. Was it a sign of climate change? Whatever the answer, it was indeed “a good climate for change"!

The morning event was dedicated to the international conference on climate change. It was opened by Mr. Mahmoud Chihaoui, Director of the Tunisian Agency for Coastal Protection and Planning (APAL), which was co-organising this year's celebration with PAP/RAC. He welcomed the participants from Croatia, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Morocco and Tunisia, altogether more than 150 persons that gathered in the conference hall of the “Ramada Plaza” hotel. The audience was varied, with representatives of foreign ministries, international organisations, national and local authorities, NGOs, research institutes.

After Mr. Chihaoui’s introduction, the floor was given to Ms. Željka Škaričić, PAP/RAC Director. She encouraged all the participants to take action and act responsibly for our Mediterranean coasts, and emphasised the need to share our concerns with our closest friends and family. Then, Mr. Gaetano Leone, UNEP/MAP Coordinator, congratulated the Tunisian counterpart for the efforts undertaken to organise the event. He highlighted how important it is to strengthen cooperation on climate variability and change, and to continue pushing forward the efforts invested so far within the ClimVar and Medpartnership projects and beyond, within the Barcelona Convention. In his address, H.E. Mr. Mounir Majdoub, Tunisian Secretary of State for Sustainable Development recapitulated the main risks Tunisia is facing due to climate change: droughts, floods, sea-level rise, soil degradation, etc. He pleaded for new policies to cope with those challenges, for policies in line with technological progress and adapted to ecosystems, and insisted on the need to strengthen international cooperation and secure necessary funds to invest in this critical area. The next speaker was Mr. Lorenzo Galbiati, of UNEP/MAP, in charge of the MedPartnership project, who gave a brief overview of the Medpartnership and ClimVar projects, and proposed a 10 minute video on the objectives, challenges and achievements of the projects.

To close the first session of the conference, Mr. Anil Markandya, Scientific Director of the Basque Institute for Climate, received from Mr. Majdoub and Ms. Škaričić the certificate of Ambassador of the Coast 2014. This prise honours every year a person that inspires, through his or her work and engagement, the people from the Mediterranean and beyond, to better understand, protect and respect the coasts and their environment. Mr. Markandya expressed many thanks to the Tunisian authorities for this honour, and particularly UNEP/MAP and PAP/RAC for their confidence. He expressed the wish to see this long-time cooperation continue.

In the second session of the conference Mr. Markandya took the floor to present the latest available information on the climate change at the global level. He shared with the participants the updated information from the latest IPCC reports. To close the morning session, the experts of APAL presented their strategy to further implement ICZM in Tunisia, and the challenges related to climate change in the Kerkennah Islands (pilot area for the ClimVar project). At this stage, the discussion was opened which brought to the light a great interest of local Tunisian experts to build a more sustainable future for the Tunisian coasts, with focus on ICZM implementation where climate variability and change must be integrated.

Finally, a short animated movie on adaptation to climate change in the Mediterranean, “A good climate for change”, prepared by PAP/RAC, was shown to the public.

In the afternoon, in order to cope with a menacing weather, the celebration was transferred from a large tent in the hotel gardens to a large hall indoors. The main event was an association forum on integrated coastal zone management. To open the forum Mr. Majdoub, Mr. Leone, Mr. Chihaoui, Ms. Škaričić, and Mr. Khalil Attia, Director of SPA/RAC, took a tour of the exhibition. More than 20 associations, NGOs and international organisations (e.g. SPA/RAC, PAP/RAC – MedPartnership) presented their work and results. The forum was a great success, with about 250 visitors who had the opportunity to discover a wide range of actors that are involved in the protection of the Tunisian coasts, their people, culture, economy and environment. The Coast Day 2014 was closed with a cocktail party during which award was given to the winner to the children’s coastal photo competition.

Several photographs illustrating the forum are shown below, while more photographs will soon be available in the Gallery.