The Carbon Reduction Strategy support tool - for cities on the move

8 Nov 2022

The Carbon Reduction Strategy support tool - for cities on the move

Image: Johannes Plenio / Unsplash

The SUMP-PLUS project has just launched its Carbon Reduction Strategy support tool, an open-source tool available for all municipalities to use to accompany their journeys towards carbon-zero.

The net-zero challenge

The transition to achieve net-zero carbon targets by 2050 requires radical and urgent change to existing policies. However, cities often lack the knowledge and expertise to understand how different scales and timings of policy strategies impact on carbon emissions, especially when dealing with such long timescales as up to 2050. To address this challenge, SUMP-PLUS partner, Vectos SLR, has developed the Carbon Reduction Strategy Support Tool, to fill that knowledge gap and assist cities in identifying a suitable mix of high-level policy strategies, and their timings, that will achieve carbon targets while also respecting and supporting the other objectives that cities are looking to deliver.

What does the tool look like and what can it do?

The tool is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. It deals only with personal travel, not freight; it calculates the expected impacts, over time, of introducing different carbon reduction strategy mixes, and can be used iteratively with groups of stakeholders, trying out different combinations to find the most effective and acceptable mix of strategies. The tool provides an aid to ‘backcasting’ – working backwards from an agreed output to identify what needs to be done, between now and then. Instructions are provided within the tool, and additionally, a user guide is available with a more detailed description, examples of how to use the tool and explanations of the outputs.

Step by step

The process of using the tool involves the following steps:

1. Specify basic information on current and future conditions in your city (e.g., existing modal shares, expected population growth, to 2030 and to 2050)

2. Specify a set of Avoid-Shift-Improve strategies to be achieved by different dates: Avoiding the need to travel by substituting physical travel with digital access to services/home delivery and avoiding the need to travel long distances by facilitating local short distance trips; Shifting the mode of travel from car to more sustainable alternatives; and Improving the engine efficiency/carbon intensity of fuel so that each km of travel emits less carbon.

3. Review the outputs, in the form of the following (see visual examples of outputs here):

  • A ‘waterfall’ diagram, showing the contribution of each strategy to the overall carbon reduction, at a given target date (see Figure 1).
  • A ‘fan’ diagram, showing the contributions to carbon reduction, year by year (see Figure 2), and
  • A cumulative distribution diagram, showing cumulative carbon emissions, over time (see Figure 3)

4. If the targets are not achieved, review the situation and try a different strategy mix; this might involve introducing some different strategies into the mix, or applying the current ones more intensively, or at a faster rate.

Carbon neutrality represents a fixed end goal, but there are many different strategies and mixes of policy strategies among sectors that can be adopted to achieve that common end goal – according to local conditions and capabilities. It is also important that carbon reduction as a goal should not be considered in isolation from other transport and environmental objectives (safety, biodiversity, air quality, etc).

Therefore, the process of establishing the most suitable policy strategies for long-term net-zero carbon planning comprises of several steps and will require extensive stakeholder engagement among many sectors. This tool is useful for cities as a stakeholder and political engagement tool to help inform workshop discussions and decision making when developing long-term policy strategies and defining transition pathways to net-zero carbon.


This tool has been endorsed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and features within their upcoming publication “Guidelines on decarbonisation planning of urban mobility” SUMP Topic Guide.

Acknowledgements: The tool is free to use for any city - please acknowledge the tool developer as VECTOS/SLR

Access the Carbon Reduction Strategy support tool

For further information please contact Steve Wright, Principal Researcher at VECTOS / SLR: steve.wright[at]


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