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All over the world, as weather patterns shift and become increasingly disruptive due to climate change, city governments and planners must increasingly turn their focus not only to climate mitigation, but to climate adaptation too.
From greening our cities to building rainwater reservoirs, a lot can be done to make cities more resilient to climate change. Meanwhile, as they accelerate their efforts to become climate-neutral, cities must also drastically reduce emissions from mobility and transportation, for example by transforming traffic-heavy streets and public space into healthier, more liveable, human-friendly places – and involving their citizens in the process.
On 22 March 2023, EIT Urban Mobility hosted a workshop in Copenhagen where city officials, practitioners and youth representatives were invited to co-create a set of recommendations on how cities can transform public space so that it enables climate adaptation, fossil-free mobility and engagement with younger citizens.
After the workshop, the draft recommendations were reviewed, consolidated and refined by EIT Urban Mobility in consultations with external experts, resulting in the following 11 policy recommendations for city governments, grouped under three main headings: Strategy and processes; climate adaptation and fossil-free mobility; and citizen engagement.

Strategy and processes

  1. Strategy and political buy-in. Develop a multi-year strategy and secure political buy-in by setting specific and ambitious targets backed by a powerful communications narrative. Foster a brave institutional mindset and link the strategy to existing processes, such as European SUMP guidelines.
  2. Holistic thinking and collaboration. Encourage holistic and inclusive thinking in your city by enabling wide collaboration among experts and practitioners, incorporating a diversity of perspectives and continuously upskilling your city’s human resources.
  3. Data and measurement. Data should be a key tool to transform your city, but carefully decide what data to collect, allocate sufficient resources to measure progress, set standards for data governance and be aware of data biases, such as the lack of data on certain demographics or modes of transport.
  4. Existing policies and legislation. Map the existing policies, legislation and political declarations that your city can use as a lever to make change, such as local climate declarations, the EU Mission of 100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030 or the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for implementing youth engagement programmes.

Climate adaptation and fossil-free mobility

  1. New urban planning guidelines. Ensure that climate mitigation, climate adaptation, air quality, public health, safety and liveability considerations are included in all future public space projects in your city.
  2. Prioritise nature. Prioritise nature in your city by incorporating principles of rewilding, regenerative and circular thinking, urban mining and natural ecosystems, while respecting and cultivating the place-specific identities of your city and neighbourhoods.
  3. Prioritise sustainable and safe mobility. Rethink mobility and transport to make it safer and more sustainable, accessible and efficient, with particular focus on walking, cycling and public transport. Use every public space renovation and transformation project as an opportunity to gradually transform your city’s mobility system.
  4. Do not forget about urban logistics: Prioritise sustainable urban logistics and freight, including zero-emission vehicles, micromobility for last-mile deliveries, low-emission zones, consolidation hubs and micro-distribution centres.

Citizen engagement

  1. Prioritise citizen engagement. Allocate proper funding and resources to foster wide, continuous strategic engagement with people and stakeholders, make the engagement efforts understandable and relatable to citizens, understand and try to meet the needs of all elements of society, and measure the progress of your engagement efforts.
  2. Engage the youth. Develop specific youth engagement programmes to engage them in the development of your city and make it mandatory to involve young people’s perspectives in important urban planning and street transformation projects.
  3. Test solutions with people. Make agile and cost-efficient interventions to experiment and test new ideas and solutions for public space together with citizens, to avoid that your city’s transformation efforts rely only on large-scale, expensive urban renewal projects.
The policy recommendations are aligned with the European Commission’s recommendation for Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) adopted in March 2023 and echo the priorities of the new European Urban Mobility Framework launched in December 2021, which set out European guidance on how cities can cut emissions and improve mobility with a particular focus on public transport and active mobility. The European Commission is also working on providing cities with a set of common indicators that would help them collect data, monitor progress towards sustainable mobility and help evaluate interventions.