No 5 | December 2011


Welcome to the 5th edition of the Informed Cities Update!

This newsletter keeps you up to date with the key developments within the Informed Cities initiative, which aims to make research work for local sustainability. The initiative is a European project dedicated to bridging the gap between research and policy-making in sustainable development, with a focus on tools for urban management. The Informed Cities Update is designed for local governments, researchers and other partners interested in advancing urban sustainability.

1  |  Informed Cities news

  • Informed Cities Forum and the way forward
  • New initiative to support strategic dialogue on urban sustainability
  • Can community empowerment soften the blow of the financial crisis?
  • Researchers and cities to meet in Rio

2  |  Upcoming events

  • Informed Cities Roundtable, 16-17 February 2012, London (UK)
  • CARE-North Final Event, 20-21 March 2012, Bremen (Germany)
  • Resilient Cities, 12-15 May 2012, Bonn (Germany)

3  |  Improve your local sustainability processes

  • CATCH: Online knowledge platform for sustainable mobility choices
  • Sustainable NOW: Step-by-step guide to local energy action planning

4  |  Recent publications

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  • “Keeping track of our changing environment: From Rio to Rio+20”, UNEP

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For more information on the Informed Cities initiative visit

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Informed Cities Forum and the way forward

The second Informed Cities Forum concluded on 27 October in Naples (Italy), where it was reaffirmed that cities and researchers go together like mozzarella and tomatoes in an Italian pizza. Opened by the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the conference brought together over 150 local government representatives and researchers from 26 countries, showcasing excellent examples of ongoing cooperation and posing pertinent questions about the future of cities.

The participants brought knowledge and experience and had several opportunities to take centre stage thanks to a variety of interactive tools and formats, such as live voting and a world café. The contributions from selected high-level speakers, including Nicholas You, Chair of World Urban Campaign and former UN-HABITAT Advisor and Dr. Joe Ravetz, Director of Centre for Urban & Regional Ecology at the University of Manchester, delved deeper into the concept of sustainable urbanisation and the city, calling for a transition towards intelligent cities.

From lunch lectures at Tilburg City Hall (Netherlands) to sustainable construction projects in Zaragoza (Spain), the partnerships between cities and universities are building blocks for local sustainable development. With a growing number of European schemes for local sustainability, cities increasingly turn to researchers looking for advice and experience rooted in the local context. How best to make this cooperation happen? The Informed Cities initiative has the answer to this and many more questions.

Conference results
To download presentations, including preliminary results of explorative application, read world cafe summary and view photos from the event, click here

What’s next for Informed Cities?
Based on the information collected throughout the project, the Informed Cities partners are currently preparing a book on making research work for local sustainability, to be published by Routledge in autumn 2012. The executive summary will be available earlier on the Informed Cities website. This is not the end of the Informed Cities initiative however! We are planning to continue organising annual meetings under the flag of Informed Cities and we hope to see you in 2012.

New initiative to support strategic dialogue on urban sustainability

Cities account for around 70% of global CO2 emissions and are major contributors to the overall ecological footprint. In order for cities to effectively face these challenges, it is essential for all concerned stakeholders, including local policy makers and researchers, to work together. The EU-funded 7th Framework Programme (FP7) project, URBAN-NEXUS, will, amongst other things, facilitate the process of bringing these stakeholders together, in view of reducing the overall ecological footprint of cities.

Bringing together 13 leading knowledge institutes, research organisations and governmental agencies from nine EU countries, URBAN-NEXUS has been officially kicked-off with a meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, held between 17 and 18 November 2011. Based on the review and synthesis of existing urban research, the project aims to develop a strategic dialogue and partnership framework to organise long-term collaboration with stakeholders in relation to three vertical thematic strands focused on adaptation to climate change, health and quality of life and sustainable land-use, and two horizontal cross-cutting strands, relating to integrated urban management and integrated information and monitoring. The main objectives of the project are to:

  • identify innovative ways for urban policy makers and researchers to collaborate to solve the complex and interrelated problems that confront sustainable urban development
  • increase awareness among relevant stakeholders and allow them to exchange knowledge, collaborate and cooperate.
  • facilitate partnerships between relevant stakeholders, in particular researchers and those who apply knowledge, for long-term strategic cooperation across scales and disciplines.

To find out more, download URBAN-NEXUS factsheet or contact

Image: Cea.@flickr

Can community empowerment soften the blow of the financial crisis?

In times of local government budget cuts and a withdrawal of the welfare state, individuals are asked to take more responsibility for their own environment. This poses all kinds of societal challenges and calls for new, innovative forms of governance to deal with these challenges. One such response is the Community Arena approach, where community members engage in a joint experimenting and learning process towards a sustainable way of life. Focusing on the innovative power of frontrunners and combining a long term vision with short term activities, the Community Arena approach is currently piloted in a number of European cities and neighbourhoods.

One of these is Carnisse, a so-called “deprived neighbourhood” in the city of Rotterdam (the Netherlands), where action researchers from Drift work together with the local community to advance the self-organising capacity of the neighbourhood. The dismantling of the old structures of the welfare state is overtly present in Carnisse: the local municipality is cutting social workers’ ties with the community, closing down neighbourhood centres and cutting budgets of community organisations. Interestingly, the analyses conducted in the past months, including desk research and interviews, have shown that there is a big gap between the perception of policy makers and inhabitants. While policy makers perceive the neighbourhood as deprived and deteriorating even further, most of the inhabitants perceive their neighbourhood as positive, or at least being in an upward spiral.

Over the next half year, four Community Arena-sessions will take place with a group of around fifteen frontrunners. The aim of these sessions is to arrive at a shared long term vision for Carnisse, and define pathways towards the fulfilment of this vision and the implementation of the first practical experiments. Throughout this process, a shared narrative for this neighbourhood will emerge, motivating people to participate in broader networks and work towards a sustainable future.

To follow the progress of Carnisse Community Arena, click here (in Dutch)

Interested in supportive environments for sustainable living?
The Community Arena approach is piloted within the EU-funded InContext project. For more information about the project and opportunities to get involved, click here

Researchers and cities to meet in Rio

With the Rio+20 conference approaching, the UN member states, local governments and academic community, as well as other partners, are busy with the preparations. The Rio+20 Conference Secretariat has received almost 700 submissions to the compilation document that will serve as a basis to prepare a zero draft of the conference outcome. The proposals made by ICLEI on behalf of local governments worldwide have been presented at the Informed Cities Forum (read ICLEI submission or download the presentation).
ICLEI is planning a number of events to make sure that the voice of local governments is being heard in Rio and to create opportunities for a much needed multi-level and multi-stakeholder dialogue on the future of sustainable development. Directly ahead of the conference, the City of Belo Horizonte (Brazil) will host ICLEI’s World Congress (14-18 June 2012), in parallel with the 3rd International Urban Research Symposium (15-17 June 2012). Building on the experience of the Informed Cities initiative, the Research Symposium aims to bridge the gap between research and practice. The researchers will have the opportunity to interact with the core program of the World Congress, as well as discuss the progress and challenges of urban research in dedicated time slots.

To register your interest to participate in or support the International Urban Research Symposium, please contact

For an overview of ICLEI activities ahead of Rio+20, including the Local Sustainability 2012 study and the Global Town Hall, visit

Local sustainability in national Rio+20 preparations – a topic for the Roundtable!
The Informed Cities Roundtable held a short session on Rio+20 preparations, in parallel to the Informed Cities Forum. Representatives of ten European countries exchanged information on the status of preparations and shared a number of interesting initiatives, related to collecting the experience of local sustainability movements, e.g. in Germany and Switzerland. To find out more or to share you experience, contact


Informed Cities Roundtable: Recommendations from Informed Cities initiative, 16-17 February 2012, London (UK)

The upcoming Informed Cities Roundtable meeting will focus on discussing final recommendations coming from the Informed Cities initiative. Referring to information and examples collected throughout the project, the Roundtable participants will exchange experience on knowledge brokerage for local sustainability, addressing in particular the role of national governments and municipal associations in stimulating cooperation between cities and universities.
The meeting will also be an opportunity to present the state of national preparations towards the Rio+20 conference and learn more about the activities planned by ICLEI as the Local Authority Major Group organising partner. The 2012 meeting is hosted by the Local Government Information Unit.

For more information visit the Roundtable website at


CARE-North Final Event: Travelling the carbon-responsible way, 20-21 March 2012, Bremen (Germany)

At a time when the North Sea Region is working to deal with the effects of climate change, traditional transport structures are continually increasing CO2 emissions, undermining other climate protection efforts. The Carbon Responsible Transport Strategies for the North Sea Area (CARE-North) project has developed innovative carbon reduction strategies for urban and regional transport, whilst improving accessibility.

For more information, click here

Resilient Cities 2012: 3rd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, 12-15 May 2012, Bonn (Germany)

In only two editions in 2010 and 2011, the Resilient Cities series has asserted its position as a milestone event in the field of urban resilience and climate adaptation. The 2012 edition will provide you with the keys to smarter infrastructure, better urban planning and state-of-the-art tools that will improve the future of cities. Debates at Resilient Cities 2012 will focus on the following themes: Urban Risk, Resilient Urban Design, Resilient Urban Renewable Energy, Resilient Urban Logistics, as well as on Financing the Resilient City.

For more information, click here
Call for contributions is open until 31 December, registration will open in early 2012.


In this section you will find profiles of selected urban sustainability tools that will help you improve your local sustainability processes. Interested in presenting your experience with urban sustainability management tools? Would you like your tool to be featured in the next edition of the Informed Cities Update? Contact us at

CATCH: Online knowledge platform for sustainable low carbon urban mobility choices

In order for cities to encourage climate-friendly decision making amongst their citizens, they must first understand how to present knowledge to citizens. The CATCH project (funded under FP7) is delivering an online knowledge platform aimed at:

  • triggering behavioural change towards choosing climate-friendly travel choices; and
  • supporting decision makers in sustainable urban mobility planning.

To achieve these aims, the CATCH platform provides information on the impact that city transport systems have on a range of social, environmental and economic indicators, as well as policy examples of how negative impacts can be reduced and overall city performance enhanced. 

The platform includes a set of engaging visualisation tools enabling users to assess the environmental performance of their cities. Users access and interface with a wide range of sustainable performance indicators (not just greenhouse gas data and transport data) and information in order to:

  • make informed choices to reduce their transport carbon impact (travellers or general public)
  • understand how to encourage sustainable mobility behaviour and how to implement sustainable urban mobility plans  (practitioners or informed users).

For more information visit

Sustainable NOW: Step-by-step guide to local energy action planning

Following the official completion of the Sustainable NOW project at the end of the summer, a 20-page brochure presenting the project’s results has been published. It collects experiences of partners in developing their local sustainable energy action plans (known as LEAPs or SEAPs) whilst introducing newcomers to the concept.

Now more than ever, global energy and climate challenges require innovative, progressive and sustainable responses. Local governments are in a position to steer change in cities and regions across Europe through utilising SEAPs, a powerful tool in the planning, implementation and evaluation of climate and energy policies. The brochure gives readers the opportunity to learn about the benefits of such plans and use its step-by-step guide to successfully implement them.

ICLEI coordinated the Sustainable NOW project, which seeks to strengthen the role of local and regional governments in guiding their communities in the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. Energy experts and policy-makers, as well as anybody with an interest in the topic, are invited to explore the initiative’s outcomes and be inspired by the ideas presented.

To download your copy of the guide and examples of SEAPs, click here

The Sustainable NOW guide is available in English, Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian.
German version coming soon!


In this section you will find our reading recommendations for those interested in local sustainability. We choose publications that are both theoretical and practice-oriented, that are bold and provocative and that are accessible to a broad audience. Would you like to see your publication featured in this section? Contact us at

“Environmental Management Systems in Local Public Authorities”, Martin Jungwirth

The European regulation Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) has been in use since 1995 and was revised in 2001. The study deals with the development of the regulation both on a European as well as a national level, analysing EMAS in modern local public administrations in the UK and Germany. The author has structured a quantitative analysis based on the different political and institutional settings and comes to the conclusion that the organisational processes are mostly dependant on the leading and dominant figures within each organisation.

In this respect, the book as a whole contributes to theoretical and conceptual debate, provides material for researchers, policy-makers, European institutions and many other stakeholders whose interest is to learn from the past to concentrate on further research needs regarding EMAS, as well as the future development and use of New Environmental Policy Instruments (NEPIs). The basic idea of these instruments is to be more flexible and adaptive to the specific needs of its users rather than continuing with the old command-and-control structure that does not seem appropriate as the EU expands.

To read more and order your copy, click here

For more information on EMAS and local authorities, click here

“Keeping track of our changing environment: From Rio to Rio+20”, UNEP

The environmental changes that have swept the planet over the last twenty years are spotlighted in a new compilation of statistical data by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), released in a report entitled “Keeping Track of our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20”. Through data, graphics and satellite images, the UNEP report offers wide-ranging information on a number of key issues, including population, climate change, energy, resource efficiency, forests and land use.

The authors of the report point out that the lack of sufficient, solid data and monitoring systems to measure progress remains an obstacle to achieving the environmental goals set by the international community. The report highlights the missing pieces in our knowledge about the state of the environment, calling for global efforts to collect scientifically-credible data for environmental monitoring. The report is produced as part of UNEP’s “Global Environmental Outlook-5” (GEO -5) series, the UN’s most authoritative assessment of the state, trends and outlook of the global environment. The full GEO-5 report will be launched next May, one month ahead of the Rio+20 Conference taking place in Brazil.

To read more and download your copy, click here


The Informed Cities Initative is funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union under the name PRIMUS – Policies and Research for an Integrated Management of Urban Sustainability.

The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the authors. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Communities. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Published by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, 2011