CAT-MED: Climate change action based on Mediterranean urban planning and design

Since 2008 eleven Mediterranean cities have been working on a sustainability initiative called CAT-MED (The Platform for sustainable urban models). CAT-MED’s central aim is to help mitigate the risks related to climate change, and at the same time improve the natural and social environments. The CAT-MED methodology consists of developing sustainable urban projects based on traditional, compact Mediterranean design. Common indicators and the participatory process have been used to develop “Green Apple” urban development pilot projects. CAT-MED is committed to a sustainability framework developed by the Malaga Charter (2011).

The Cities

The original members of the CAT-MED movement  are the cities of Malaga; Sevilla; Valencia;  Barcelona;  Genoa;  Rome; Turin;  Pays d'Aix;  Marseille; the Attica region and Thessaloniki. In addition, the Mediterranean Institute & the Urban Ecology Agancy of Barcelona provides technical support and transnational partnerships. Today, over 20 more cities & regions have joined the platform.

Method 1:  A sustainable urban model

Central to the CAT-MED strategy is the traditional Mediterranean city as model of sustainable urban design. Good urban design can fuse with, promote and improve
the environmental, economic and social areas. The achievement of these is a central component of CAT-MED’s approach to climate change action.

A major tenet of the programme is avoiding the high consumption and costs necessary in maintaining urban design based on the “Sprawl Model”. There has been a spread of cities and suburbs planned and designed based on large disconnected areas, particularly in the United States. This type of design has impacted on nature, created an increase in demand for new infrastructure and the resources necessary to support the needs of residents. At the same time, residents are separated from one another leading to a decrease in social interaction.

The return to the classical city contrasts with this because of its compact and complex design. Public space is organised so it has multiple uses.  In a compacted and multifaceted urban model, citizens have the services they depend on within walking distance. Their homes, workplaces, institutions and opportunities for leisure are close by. The need for excessive consumption of resources is therefore lessened.

The Sprawl and Compact City 

Method 2: Check progress by use of common indicators

In a sustainable city, sustainability indicators can demonstrate, over a period of time, progress or barriers to progress. As an organisation consisting of partners, CAT-MED has agreed the importance of monitoring the following: (1) local management of urban design; (2) mobility and transport; (3) natural resources management; and (4) social and economic cohesion. To help this process, a tool based on GIS and free software, has been developed. Desirable ranges are agreed by all founding partners which acts to establish a common strategy to reach the sustainable urban model proposed.

Method 3: The Green Apple

The Green Apple pilot project is a case in point of how to deal with climate change by participation in the development of sustainable neighbourhoods through appropriate
urban construction. The nature of the Green Apple is to merge construction, technological, environmental and social elements to suit the demands across different cities. Along with appropriate density and compactness, the Green Apple innovates with, for example, renewable energy and efficiency and sustainable waste treatment.

All the founding CAT-MED cities are involved in Green Apple projects. Detailed surveys of the characteristics and feasibility of land have been carried out. These take account of the sites as a whole, with regard given to current land use and ownership, existing buildings, population, facilities, legal frameworks and the potential for social housing. Account is also given to a Green Apple’s special natural features, such as flora and fauna.

Method 4: Participate with Metropolitan Groups

Each of the eleven members uses the common Green Apple indicators based on
management of urban design, improving mobility and transport, managing natural resources and social and economic cohesion.

To better understand these, members work with various key actors and institutions, including real-estate developers, urban utilities service providers, urban planning agencies, NGOs, residents’ associations and Chambers of Commerce. One benefit is that multiparty participation can assist in identifying strategic goals based on different ranges of expertise. Another benefit is that it enables a channel of communication and exchange of ideas between interested parties.  

Method 5: Keep to the spirit of the Malaga Charter

Like the Rio Agenda 21 (1992) and Aalborg Charter (1994), the Malaga Charter is based on the agreement of elected representatives to combine and share a system of urban sustainability indicators and processes to be used at local level. The CAT-MED Green Apple project with its goal of mitigating climate change by improving the urban and natural environments underlines that the Charter provides a basis for technically complex sustainability projects, multiparty participation and the knowledge sharing process.

Thank you to Sandra Marín Herbert, Coordinator of the CAT MED Platform for Sustainable Urban Models 

"Metropolitan Group Meeting, Marseille" © CAT-MED

Image Malaga © Fabi-DE, Creative Commons

Green Apple Thessaloniki: "Green Apple Thessaloniki, project design" © CAT-MED