Policy Guidelines synthesis

This WP “Policy guidelines synthesis” aims to conceptualise the relationship between the outputs of the formulated sustainable FWE-strategies and the wider decision-making framework of integrated urban governance as a basis for enhanced policy co-benefit. Based on the extracted experience from the diverse demonstrator of four cities case studies, it synthesises policy guidelines for designing and delivering sustainable FWE strategies. Subsequenlty, generic policy guidelines will be devised based on replication of the case studies experience with universal applicability, to maximise deployment of SUNEX methodology and impacts in transition to resilient and sustainable urban development. WP6 operationalises the outputs from the integrated modelling framework SUNEX-IMFA by providing both conceptual and practical demonstrations of the implementation of FEW-Nexus in the urban decision-making process. Policy guidelines focused on sustainable FWE strategies are synthesised in relation to diverse socio-economic, cultural and climatic conditions mediated by stakeholder co-production in the city demonstrators. The final output of this process is a set of generic guidelines that are fully effective in a variety of urban contexts delivering the policy co-benefits of sustainable development and driving the SUNEX business model.

Within the WP6 two deliverables covering “D6.1 Policy Concept Model Report” and “D6.2 Policy Guidelines Implementation Report” have been generated. The following provides a summary of both outcomes. D6.1 is confidential whereas D6.2 is public. 

D6.1 Policy Concept Model ReporT

This report builds on deliverable D3.2 that outlines the conceptual framework for the participatory process of the project concerning challenges arising in the realisation of sustainable city vision, and the deployment of the process of transition management, defining transition pathways to sustainable and carbon neutral cities. The aim of this report is to conceptualise the relationship of food, water and energy (FWE) as inputs to a wider process of city-region decision-making and urban planning. Focus is given to operationalise FEW considerations in a decision-making process that seeks optimised policy co-benefits in the specification of transition pathways to sustainable and carbon neutral cities. 

The IPCC report states that limiting demand on GHG-emission intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets is “key” to limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5C, beyond which millions more people will be affected by issues such as water stress, heatwaves and droughts. The transition pathways for decarbonising mobility and power are evident because we can predict the solutions, but when it comes to the food system and deforestation– which account for 15-20% of global emissions – we simply don’t have that clear transition pathway. Amid new scientific studies outlining the climate impact of farming and increasing consumer demand for plant-based foods, land use for food production is facing unprecedented scrutiny.

This focus on transition pathways for food production also highlights issues set in a wider urban perspective as outlined in the European Environment Agency (EEA) report “Perspectives on Transitions to Sustainability” (March 2018) and according to the most recent policy provisions of The European Green Deal (Annex 3: The European Green Deal– Key Relevant Policy Provisions). The EEA report demonstrates that transitions in the societal systems driving environmental degradation and climate change are essential if Europe is to meet its sustainability goals in coming decades. Europe’s persistent sustainability challenges are described as systemic, in the sense that they are tied in complex ways to prevailing economic, technological and social systems. These interlinkages often make it hard to effect

rapid reductions in socio-economic and environmental pressures. Nonetheless, it is necessary to go beyond incremental improvement to secure fundamental transitions or transformations in core systems, entailing profound changes in dominant institutions, practices, technologies, policies, lifestyles and thinking. These include the consumption-production systems that meet key human needs, including food, mobility and energy and water.

Knowledge creation, sharing and use are fundamental to the governance of these sustainability transitions. Yet developing the knowledge needed to support transitions presents diverse challenges that also requires transformation of the existing knowledge system, including the creation of open governance structures that promote knowledge sharing across government and society more broadly, and the development of more forward-looking information. There is therefore a need for fundamental change in these systems, including urban, fiscal and financial systems, and knowledge systems supporting decision-making, including the governance model, all issues that are central to the focus of this report.

Governance and the management of the socio-economic characteristics of the city-region is critical to the delivery of sustainable development. These socio-economic and environmental characteristics are defined and managed in a spatial and territorial context that collectively determines the extent to which the cities of Europe positively contribute to Europe’s global commitments to halt climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and delivering a range of associated sustainable development policy objectives. In practice the extent to which the city region is more compact all sprawling together with the dominant mode of transport between homes and work, and recreational and cultural facilities, substantially determines the level of greenhouse gas emissions, and a range of associated and interconnected issues including air quality, energy efficiency, and the health of both society and the economy. Furthermore, the form of the city-region and its physical connectivity and interaction with its hinterland substantially determines the wider impact of the city on the natural environment, and the conservation or loss of biodiversity.


SUNEX aims to support the definition of transition pathways via FEW policy guidelines set in the context of political commitments to deliver carbon neutral cities and post-pandemic recovery to be implemented by strategic spatial planning of the city-region. Central to the development and specification of SUNEX policy guidelines is optimisation of FEW-Nexus in the context of city-region political and policy objectives for sustainable development, including climate change mitigation and post-covid “new normal” city living.

The specifications for SUNEX policy guidelines respond to two principal framework conditions.

The first concerns the substantive policy content and context of the food energy water nexus. This is considered in terms of the critical need for the delivery of policy co-benefit solutions, and the prime policy objectives for the delivery of carbon neutral cities and sustainable solutions for a post-covid “new normal” city. FEW optimisations is set in this context of urban planning priorities, conditioned by these influences, defined in relation to urban planning requirements for the definition, development and delivery of integrated “win-win” solutions.

The second framework condition concerns the procedural and structural context of urban planning which strongly influences the definition, development and effective delivery of urban policy strategies and solutions.

The first section of this report provides an overview of the challenges facing urban planners in delivering urban planning strategies to combat climate change and realise the post-covid “new normal” city. These challenges provide the essential reality for the definition and development of the FEW optimisations’ nexus. Section 2 outlines the co-benefit frameworks that shape the methodological basis for analysis of the SUNEX policy guidelines. Section 3 provides detailed specification of the issues concerning operational land use planning structure and process specifications. This section draws substantially on the experience of the 3-year EU funded SMARTICIPATE project (Horizon 2020) (EC-Smarticipate, 2020). Section 4 specifies key issues concerning integrated urban planning strategies and associated co-benefit solutions addressing climate resilience, environment and healthy citizens, sustainable mobility. The section draws on the European Environment Agency report on Urban Sustainability in Europe (EEA, 2020).

The concluding section 5 provides a summary of the central messages for FEW policy guidelines considering the twin central concerns of citizens, politicians and planners for the delivery of carbon neutral cities and effective post-covid recovery transitioning to “new normal” living.

SUNEX Policy Guidelines – Key Messages

SUNEX FEW Policy Guidelines analysis aims to better understand the interactions between selected policy areas such that trade-offs and co-benefits can be identified, and policy and associated action prioritised, supporting FEW optimisation in a context of climate change mitigation and post-covid recovery actions. Key priorities include:

Selected urban sustainability objectives

Key policy agendas that help to deliver at least two nexus objectives e.g. enhancing climate resilience and sustainable energy transformation. Taken together these provide an overview of the key areas for strategic intervention and policy coordination in urban areas where multiple objectives can be delivered through coordinated action.

Coordinate policy and action

Explicitly designed to minimise trade-offs and maximise co-benefit to support cost-effective interventions. Generating multiple benefits does not necessarily mean delivery is cost-effective, however it seems probable that minimising trade-offs and prioritising policy that maximises co-benefits will deliver cost-effective outcomes.

Promote high level relationships and interactions

These have thematic and hierarchic links, so any one nexus objective can, if interactions are considered, deliver or support other nexus objectives. However, the opposite is also true, if the interactions and trade-offs are ignored action in one area risks undermining progress in others.

Identify conflicts and barriers

It emphasises the need for horizontal and vertical integration and coordination of measures. Co-operation and effective collaboration between levels of government (vertical dimension) and spatial cooperation (horizontal dimension), which aims to enable efficient policymaking and service delivery.

SUNEX FEW Policy Guidelines are also elaborated in respect of core FEW nexus considerations including sustainable energy transformation and sustainable food development.