Cities face numerous challenges in their efforts to decarbonise across all economic sectors, and most have developed strategies and action plans to steer the process. However, having such a wide number of plans and strategies can end up pulling in opposite directions, or at least, making suboptimal use of limited resources.

The main tools for low carbon regional planning are Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs) and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). Both intend to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and supporting sustainable urban development, yet planning can often take place in silos, and the two plans take different approaches. Regions and cities are increasingly realising the need to harmonise their planning, as well as developing new governance structures that can ensure co-operation across departments and government bodies.

Sustainable City Planning

Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans are developed by local authorities that have joined the Covenant of Mayors, committing to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and adopt joint approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The SECAP must be completed within two years of signing the covenant, and contain an assessment of the local energy environment, a baseline CO2 emissions inventory, an emissions reduction target and a plan of actions to be implemented. The plan is reviewed by the Covenant of Mayors, and implementation is monitored every two years. 

Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans aim to improve the accessibility of urban areas, providing high-quality and sustainable transport. SUMPs set out a long-term vision, to provide integrated mobility and transport solutions. Whilst guidelines exist, they are not monitored or assessed by any external party, and though carbon emission reduction is a required indicator, there is no overall target. 

Both plans have significant opportunity for harmonisation: they have similar aims to improve quality of life for citizens and reduce carbon emissions, involve engagement of many of the same stakeholders, and could have common actions related to low-carbon transport activities, requiring significant co-ordination.

The Nicosia Municipality, in Cyprus, noted the need to modernise and update its Mobility Master Plan (a SUMP). Reaching out to other regions for support, Nicosia co-ordinated the InnovaSUMP project (Innovations in Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans for low-carbon urban transport), bringing nine partners together from eight countries to share experiences and practices.

As well as its SUMP, Nicosia has also developed a SECAP and a strategic action plan for smart cities, but the measures they contained were not harmonised. As a result of InnovaSUMP exchange, Nicosia Municipality and the national Ministry of Transport are updating the Master Plan into a ‘SUMP 2.0’, harmonised with their SECAP, to include systemic solutions and avoid planning in silos.

The process was inspired by Lithuania’s guidelines for developing and implementing a SUMP, which provided an approach to select relevant actions for individual SUMP developers (municipalities). Tackling the lack of co-ordination and monitoring, Lithuania established a National SUMP Commission, comprised of representations of national ministries and stakeholders. Below that level are the Local SUMP Committee, composed of municipal administrations and local stakeholders, who examine SUMP proposals and discuss proposed actions. Municipalities that develop SUMPs must seek approval from the local Committee and the national Commission, and their implementation is monitored with progress meetings held every year.

Nicosia had developed its first SUMP in isolation, but drawing from the Lithuanian experience, recognised the need to involve stakeholders from several different administrative units and levels, including the national Ministry of Transport. Starting from these lessons, Nicosia will implement travel behaviour questionnaires to better understand their stakeholders and inform their strategy, and then harmonise with their SECAP, ensuring that mobility actions directly contribute to CO2 emission reductions. As such, the SUMP 2.0 will measure emissions from transport, and set targets for reductions. The update will be funded from the National Operational Programme.

“Through SUMP 2.0 we expect to transfer and realise all the knowledge obtained by InnovaSUMP and our participation in the European Platform for Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. We expect to increase our capacity in SUMP development and for Nicosia to stand out as good SUMP development practice” said Constantinos Yiorkadjis, Mayor of Nicosia.

For more information on SECAP-SUMP harmonisation, see the Eltis publication, 'Harmonisation of Energy and Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning', and the website of the SIMPLA project. For more on InnovaSUMP, you can visit the project website or see the Action Plan for Nicosia Municipality.

Image credit: Photo by Alex Powell from Pexels