4 National recovery and resilience plans and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and territories

Member States have been occupied developing national recovery and resilience plans in the wake of the financial crisis in 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic. These plans have had a direct impact on subnational governments given their aim to become sustainable cities and territories and therefore also unequivocally affects SDG11, which revolves around cities. The cities themselves, on the other hand, have been more engrossed in actively promoting actions that aim to localise SDGs as a tool to accelerate the recovery from the pandemic and the crisis. For its part, the aim of HLPF 2023 is to continue to assess the recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic and its interplay with the SDGs to “build back better” to ensure that any recovery is sustainable, just and green.

Our LRGAs have therefore been implementing or are planning to implement concrete actions that promote the localisation of SDGs and accelerate the recovery from the pandemic and other crises. The main actions have been listed in the chart below (the figures represent the number of associations responding).

In the box below, we have presented examples of national governments’ recovery and resilience plans and financial packages as well as other contributions made to achieve SDG 11 along with any SDG 11 implementation efforts aimed at recovery from the crisis.

Austria: The Austrian Recovery and Resilience Plan supports Austrian cities and municipalities, primarily in the area of green transition and social cohesion. The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns’ (AACT) focus is not limited to SDG 11 but involves a holistic approach.

The pandemic left Iceland relatively unscathed and a special recovery plan has therefore not proven necessary.

In Lithuania, the national government has adopted a national recovery and resilience plan and financial package. The Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (LSA) has taken an active role in identifying relevant components (fields) of the plan for investments, most of which reflect an urban dimension and SDG 11.

Serbia is currently preparing a proposal for a national adaptation program to climate change, and The Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SKGO) has been involved in the working group preparing this document.

In Spain, a national global recovery plan (https://planderecuperacion.gob.es/) is already in place. At subnational level, the Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA) has set up an office aimed at local entities to facilitate access to European recovery funds. 

In Spain, EUDEL has developed initiatives providing information and support to local governments regarding the “Next Generation EU” local funds (https://next.eudel.eus/) and has played the role of facilitator in partnerships between Basque municipalities and institutions at other levels. It has also promoted partnerships among municipalities.

In Spain, the eLankidetza-Basque Government Agency for Development Cooperation Agency and Euskal Fondoa/Basque Local Authorities Cooperation Fund (EUSKADI) have already linked their priorities and projects to each SDG. With respect specifically to SDG 11, the Basque Government Agency for Development Cooperation has identified several cooperation projects; details can be found here. Euskal Fondoa has also led AKUAL cooperation projects involving El Salvador. The Euskadi-Basque Country cooperation actors have taken a leading role and are involved in seven flagship projects that concretely tie in to SDGs. One such project, "Opengela", promote a green and inclusive ecosystem in transport, cities and urban planning directly concerns SDG 11. Complete information regarding the flagship projects can be found here.

In the Netherlands, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) has developed various products that support municipalities in tackling the social and economic impact of coronavirus measures. The COVID-19 Social Impact Committee issued a report 'Socially stronger out of the crisis'. VNG also ensures the municipal recovery agendas are taken into consideration at the national level so that national, regional and local connections can be established, and communicates what municipalities need and how they can contribute towards achieving socially, economically and physically sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11). Taking an entirely novel and innovative approach to achieving SDG 11, VNG developed and launched in 2022 its Sustainable Development Goalggles: a virtual urban sustainability test that consists of a four-minute virtual reality game experience used in congresses to give an overview of various components relevant to SDG 11, in which players (municipal officials) have to eliminate elements that are not in line with SDG 11.

And what has been the impact of the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine?

The ongoing illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a transformation in the energy sector all across the European continent and worldwide. The resulting energy crisis has compelled national recovery and resilience plans to give greater consideration to prioritising SDG 7 on “affordable and clean energy for all” as a core element in order to protect the most vulnerable groups.

Our LRGAs have been implementing specific key actions to tackle the current energy crisis. The preferred action among the survey respondents was the facilitation of the exchange of information with LRGs and the access to information resources on recycling (35% of the respondents). LRGAs also focused on key advocacy actions (29%) to ensure the views and interests of their LRGs were duly taken into account whenever legislation linked to the energy sector was being adopted (e.g. through dialogue, cooperation, consultation, interpersonal relations, etc.). LRGAs also saw a need for active marketing (21%) for international cooperation and/or participation in international events promoting exchange of experience, development of joint advocacy actions, etc. Yet, only a small percentage focused on mobilising financial support to help resolve long-term energy needs (6%) or cooperating in new European projects in the field of energy (2%) to deal with the emergent energy crisis (for example, proposals to reconstruct energy facilities or increase renewable energy, etc. made in the wake of the ongoing illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine). The number of associations responding are listed above the orange columns in the following chart.

Examples of actions and/or projects that have been planned or implemented in response to the current energy crisis

In Belgium, the Association of the City and the Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (Brulocalis) has set up working groups on energy saving in sport centres and public buildings.

In Luxembourg, the Association of Luxembourg Cities and Municipalities (SYVICOL) has put together a collection of best practices made available here: https://www.syvicol.lu/fr/dossiers-thematiques/zesumme-spueren.

In Moldova, the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova (CALM) enjoys continuous contacts and communication sessions with the relevant central authorities.

In Serbia, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SKGO) has promoted the energy-saving plan adopted by the national government for the public sector through its Network of Energy Managers and other info channels.

In Slovenia, the Association of Urban Municipalities of Slovenia (ZMOS-SI) has provided information to its members from the Covenant of Mayors, shared best practices used internationally by cities to save energy, e.g. the Cities Energy Saving Sprint. It has also engaged in advocacy to ensure that local public entities are included among the beneficiaries of any national State measures (for instance, price cap regulations).

In Spain, eLankidetza-Basque Government Agency for Development Cooperation and Euskal Fondoa/Basque Local Authorities Cooperation Fund (EUSKADI) have been active in the flagship Energy-Ekiola + Climate-Ondarea Project: https://www.euskadi.eus/contenidos/ informacion/docs_interes_transicionsocial/es_def/adjuntos/ENG-Programa-prioridades.pdf

In Sweden, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) has introduced energy-saving measures and energy efficiency improvements and worked to ensure that the association’s members receive financial compensation from the State for high energy costs.

In Ukraine, the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) has endeavoured to attract international partners to provide Ukrainian municipalities with power generators after Russian shellings greatly exacerbated the energy crisis. AUC has also been specifically promoting SDG7 on clean energy in their activities and events.