SUMP-PLUS takes on COP27: Decarbonising healthcare and transport

13 Dec 2022

SUMP-PLUS takes on COP27: Decarbonising healthcare and transport

Image: Sciences Po, Paris

Last month Dr. Charlotte Halpern (researcher at SUMP-PLUS partner Sciences Po, Paris) attended the climate change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh. In this article she reflects on her experience there and how she show-cased the work of SUMP-PLUS at the COP27.

Interview by Charlène Lavoir, Communications Department, Sciences Po, Paris


What was your role at COP27?

Accreditation opportunities for the COP are few and far between, so my presence at COP 27 is the result of a wonderful combination of circumstances.

Let me first explain how COP 27 works: there is the ‘on’ and the ‘off’. The ‘on’ is the official programme - the negotiations between the parties, and the ‘off’ part allows all the observers to host side evebts on the subjects of their choice - agriculture, health, mobility, development, etc. This gives expert observers the opportunity to speak on their areas of expertise and to exchange views with peers and a highly mobilised audience.

I was invited to present my research results at a side event organised by Anneliese Depoux, Director of the Virchow-Villermé Centre for Public Health Paris-Berlin of the Université Paris Cité. Anneliese is in charge of health issues within the Earth Policy Centre, of which we are both board members, and this round table organised in partnership with the University of California was about the decarbonisation of health systems.

What was the focus of your presentation?

I focussed my presentation on SUMP PLUS, within which I coordinate the governance and political capacities of cities to drive a sustainable and decarbonised urban mobility trajectory, and where a large part of the work is dedicated to the decarbonisation of local health systems.

For the most experienced cities in sustainable urban mobility, it is becoming essential to identify additional reservoirs for reducing their carbon emissions to intensify and accelerate decarbonisation. They do this by forging strategic partnerships with sectors of activity that generate mobility, for example health, education, tourism or logistics, etc. For the health system, this concerns the transport and delivery of medicines, home care and emergency services, journeys by health workers and patients to hospitals, nursing homes and doctors' surgeries, the transport of health care waste, etc. Other aspects include for example energy efficiency in buildings, public procurement and waste management. Reducing carbon emissions requires integrated, cross-sectoral approaches: their design and, above all, their implementation is a major challenge for actors who do not speak the same ‘language’ and rarely cross paths.

Decarbonising Greater Manchester through cross-sectoral links

The SUMP-PLUS project gave me the opportunity to understand this challenge from a British case, based in the Manchester city lab and led by our SUMP PLUS partner, Stuart Blackadder from Transport for Greater Manchester: following the adoption in 2020 of a decarbonisation plan by the National Health Service (NHS), Transport for Greater Manchester launched a pilot project to decarbonise health-related travel within its territory. Thanks to SUMP-PLUS, it has been possible to bring together all the stakeholders in this cross-sectoral project: health care staff, hospital management, municipal and regional health authorities, economic stakeholders and patient representatives. The city lab has lain the foundations for a joint action plan and drawn lessons from pre-existing pilot projects. The city lab has also worked across sectors with all the city's departments and the Mayor's office to propose a governance system dedicated to steering this decarbonisation process by 2038.

My role, in collaboration with Prof. Peter Jones from University College London and other SUMP PLUS partners was to accompany the city in this process. I relied on two competences: as a researcher specialised in public action, to identify the issues specific to cross-sectoral public action; and as the scientific manager of an executive Master's degree at Sciences Po on urban governance, to train professionals from the public and private sectors in the management of highly complex territorial projects.

During this side event, I presented the research results of the Manchester City Lab, which are the culmination of three years of work. Five other cities are partners in this European project, each having developed its City Lab on an issue identified as a priority - tourism for Lucca (Italy) and Platanias (Crete), logistics for Lucca and Antwerp (Belgium), education for Klaipeda (Lithuania) and for Alba Iulia (Romania). This project is very much grounded in reality, and shows the many implications of a decarbonisation of the transport system on a local scale with practical consequences. This includes the limits of an all-electric strategy, the challenge of deploying alternatives to the car in small and medium-sized cities, and the way in which the rise of the zero-carbon objective requires the overhaul of governance structures and processes on the scale of the whole city.


This side event 'From operations to research: Hospitals and universities taking action to improve health in their communities', which took place on 17 November 2023, focussed on the role of the health care sector in the climate crisis, how hospitals can act as anchor institutions in their communities to lead on climate action, and the health impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. Speakers focussed on policies, decarbonization practices, and research priorities implemented by hospitals and universities that can help drive upstream carbon reduction and improve the resilience of vulnerable communities. Case studies
included operational examples around electrification and energy efficiency, and research highlighting the links of climate change and climate action in communities.

This article is based on the longer version of the interview (in French) published here on the Sciences Po website.

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