The 2017 summer solstice marked the launch of the "LOW-CARB" project, which will co-finance sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP) alongside public investments in low-carbon mobility systems in functional urban areas. From June 1, 2017, to May 31, 2020, 11 partners will be involved in project implementation, including the following seven cities: Leipzig, Germany (the project lead partner); Salzburg, Austria; Koprivnica, Croatia; Brno, Czech Republic; Szeged, Hungary; Parma, Italy; and a community (tbc) near Krawkow, Poland. Interreg Central Europe is financing the project, which has a budget of EUR 2.7 million.
As the planet warms and the drive to reduce CO2 emissions has never been more urgent, the European Union’s White Paper on Transport has called for a 60 percent cut in transport sector carbon emissions by 2050. The EU’s 2014–2020 Cohesion Policy (which finances Interreg) financially supports the shift towards a low-carbon economy through its Thematic Objective 4: "Supporting the shift towards a low carbon economy".
To help achieve the expected reduction target, LOW-CARB will shine a spotlight on public transport services by sponsoring innovative pilot actions that lower emissions in demonstrable ways. In Salzburg and Koprivnica, mobility offers such as bike sharing supported by solar-powered e-bike charging stations will be integrated into the public transport system; and Leipzig will employ multimodal information services such as the MaaS mobile app to encourage shared mobility. Elsewhere, Szeged will offer a CO2 trip calculator; and Parma will push ahead with plans for multi-purpose charging infrastructure.
A hallmark of the project is its unique focus on so-called functional urban areas (FUAs). According to the Interreg Central Europe Cooperation Programme brochure, "European Territorial Cooperation 2014-2020", an FUA is a “functional economic unit characterised by densely inhabited ‘urban cores’ and ‘hinterlands,’ whose labour market is highly integrated with the cores.” Parallel to its direct investments, LOW-CARB will realise regional strategies, actions plans and a monitoring/evaluation tool in Leipzig, Brno and Koprivnica and their outlying areas to ensure integrated coordination and institutional cooperation. It will also make the project achievements available through a Central Europe SUMP Competence Centre.
Speaking of the project’s intent to ensure a keen regional perspective, Ronald Juhrs, Technical Director at Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe (LVB) GmbH, highlighted the demand that investments to the north of the city are having on transport infrastructure.
“The arrival of Porsche, DHL and BMW is already bringing dynamic growth to Leipzig and its surrounding areas, and public transport services must keep up because these firms, through their own low-carbon commitments, have limited the number of parking spaces offered to employees," Juhrs explained. "For this reason, the City of Leipzig and the regional travel authority, Mitteldeutscher Verkehrsverbund GmbH, are partners that are keen to work with us towards a solution that suits everyone. The LOW-CARB project is therefore a door opener in our bid to build consensus and accommodate rural areas.”
In fulfilling Interreg's "Taking Cooperation Forward" objectives, LOW-CARB will share its experiences in integrated low-carbon mobility planning in the Central Europe region through capacity building workshops. It will also invite 18 "follower" cities via an open call to join the project in 2018. The invited cities are expected to plan a sustainable urban mobility plan or SUMP for their respective FUAs. Taking all measures into consideration, the project expects to reduce CO2 emissions by 60,000 tonnes by 2020.
To kick off the project, the Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe hosted project participants in Leipzig on June 20–21, 2017. In addition to reviewing key outputs, the participants enjoyed a ride on the city's brand new "XL" that circles the city's medieval centre.
Please go to the Interreg website to learn more about this and other projects. For those organisations interested in applying for the next round of Interreg Central Europe funding, the third call will offer around EUR 60 million for new transnational cooperation ideas, as of September 2, 2017.