The Mediterranean basin has been the cradle of civilisation for thousands of years. With its three shores (North, South, and East), it brings together 522 million inhabitants spread over twenty-two riparian states, representing 6.7% of the world's population in 2020, where two-thirds already live-in territories undergoing perpetual urbanisation, particularly in cities. The latter, which have spread rapidly, are confronted with a range of risks, including health disasters (pandemics), natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods), or those caused by human activities such as fires; in this case, wildfires in urban, suburban, or rural areas. All the biosphere's actions interact with climate change, threatening the balance of hydrospheric, lithospheric, and atmospheric ecosystems. Hence, this climate change is uncomfortably linked to pollution, deforestation, drought, and erosion of fertile land caused by heavy rains, leading to desertification and the depletion of land reserves. In fact, in the urban world, with its high demographic concentration and energy-intensive construction to the detriment of the environment, climate change has become one of the significant challenges to be explored in the scientific fields of health and energy risks.
- Energy risks:
The region bordering the Mediterranean basin is experiencing a steady increase of 1.7% in energy demand, driven by demographic pressure, economic growth, and changing climatic conditions.The building sector (residential and tertiary) accounts for 45% of final consumption. Fossil fuels remain the dominant component of the energy mix, even though the region holds only 5% of the world's oil and gas reserves, 98% of which are located on the southern shore.
While the Northern Shore countries are moving towards transition through a gradual diversification of their energy mix, an improvement in energy efficiency, and an increase in the share of renewable energies, the Eastern and Southern Shore countries are trailing behind in these developments.The current geopolitical tensions have further increased the vulnerability of the region. The sharp rise in gas prices and supply disruptions have prompted some countries, mainly on the northern shore, to undertake energy-saving measures: restrictions on the lighting of buildings, limitations on the use of hot water for certain activities, and limitations on heating in public buildings. Thus, all actors (decision-makers, inhabitants, the scientific community, urban planners, and architects) are called upon to rethink energy efficiency for a viable, liveable, and equitable environment in a forward-looking vision.
Considering climate change and the quality of the environment at both the urban (exterior) and architectural (interior) scales, what are the appropriate strategies and tools for a sustainable energy transition for all energy-intensive buildings?
- Health risks:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is implementing a new Incident Management System (IMS), activated within 24–48 hours for all classified public health events, whether outbreaks, natural disasters, or humanitarian crises. However, despite all the efforts made, those who have repeatedly demanded reforms from certain countries still lack health coverage, including countries in the Mediterranean basin. On the one hand, it is well known that urban life is not only a source of creativity and technology.It is also the engine of social and economic growth, but on the other hand, it also generates poverty, inequalities, and significanthealth risks specifically related to the urban environment. Urban populations have long been a breeding ground for various types of mental and physical illnesses caused by multiple factors, such as air pollution linked mainly to anthropogenic activities; the mineralisation of urban surfaces added to the lack of vegetation cover in addition to the amplification of heat waves due to urban heat islands. All these factors are causing increasing human health concerns, such as stress, mental and respiratory illnesses, and a lack of comfort in urban spaces. High urban densities also hasten the spread of pandemics. The harsh and significant experience of COVID-19, which spared no population and crossed all borders, is the best example.
The cities of the Mediterranean are hardly immune to these risks. Indeed, while the cultures and priorities of the two Mediterranean shores differ, they are united around this universal problem, bringing globalisation closer to sustainability, with the fight against health risks remaining a top priority.Thus, how can common strategies be implemented to fight against health risks in relation to the spaces experienced by the occupants, regardless of the architectural or urban scale?
Drobinski P, Azzopardi B, Ben Janet Allal H, Bouchet V, Civel E, Creti A, DuicN,Fylaktos N, Mutale J, Pariente-David S, Ravetz J, Taliotis C, Vautard R 2020 Energy transition in the Mediterranean. In: Climate and Environmental Change in the Mediterranean Basin – Current Situation and Risks for the Future. First Mediterranean Assessment Report [Cramer W, Guiot J, Marini K (eds.)] Union for the Mediterranean, Plan Bleu, UNEP/MAP, Marseille, France, 58pp, in press