On 23 November, the Finnish Covenant of Mayors Community met in Helsinki in the Kuntatalo, the house of municipalities, hosted by the Covenant Supporter Kuntaliitto (ALFRA).
The objective of the workshop was to showcase ambitious climate plans implemented by the Finnish cities, to present the Covenant of Mayors framework and its activities, and to provide feedback to the national level on what is happening on the ground, and what is needed for municipalities to successfully achieve the energy transition.
Sari Rautio, Chairman of the City Board of Hämeenlinna and Senior Lead for the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, kick-started the workshop with an inspirational presentation. He highlighted the need to fight climate-change with innovative and inclusive systemic approaches, to foster real change that is owned by all the actors of this transition.
Interesting insights were provided by a study on the 50 largest municipalities in Finland and their climate action plans, which account for 1/3 of total emissions. Results show that in 2030, more than a quarter of Finns will live in carbon-neutral municipalities. In terms of carbon neutrality, Joensuu set its target for 2025 by reducing its emissions by 60% vs 2012 and compensating for the remaining 40% of emissions; Turku set its target for 2029, and 9 HINKU municipalities set them for the year 2030's. When implemented, the climate goals of the 50 largest municipalities reduce the current emissions of Finland by sixth by 2035
This presentation set the scene for a panel discussion on the ambitious decarbonisation of 3 Finnish cities: Helsinki, Joensuu, and Turku.
Helsinki: carbon neutral city by 2035
Helsinki set its carbon neutrality target to be reached by 2035, and is currently developing its action plan within the Covenant, prepared with involvement of all main stakeholders in an open process. Helsinki decided to define carbon neutrality by a reduction of 80% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and developed at the same time an online tool to monitor progress on the 146 actions planned. The two key factors to engage in such an ambitious process was on the one hand the political commitment, in order to streamline it in the work of the municipality, and on the other hand the involvement of different stakeholders (companies, citizens, tourists) as implementers, since the municipal sector only accounts for 10% of total emissions.
Joensuu: bio-economy for decarbonisation
The municipality of Joensuu started its work on climate and energy in 1990, and adopted several programmes and targets. In 2014, it decided to commit to decarbonisation by 2025. Being it a territory with a huge portion of land in forestry, it relies on bio-economy measures to reach its objectives, and it compensates the emissions with increases in carbon sinks, together with the development of a more recent strategy for forest management. Joensuu is also, like Helsinki, developing a portal to monitor the implementation of its plan. The city is working closely with the private sector to achieve the sub-target of having district heating running completely on renewable energies by 2020.
Turku: on the road to become a "carbon positive city"
The city of Turku set its carbon neutrality target for 2029. It started its climate work in 2009, and the signature of the Covenant of Mayors in 2010 was a turning point for the elaboration of the municipal plan. Backing up the political and citizens’ engagement, the Covenant provided Turku with the methodological framework, which – said Risto Veivo, Development Manager – allowed to focus the city resources on developing the content and the actions to be implemented, with the 4 years monitoring period of the Covenant being fully compatible with the strategy set by the municipal council. The definition of ‘carbon neutrality’ was a milestone in the process, and the first step to become eventually a ‘carbon positive’ city. Similar to other local governments, Turku too foresaw actions to be implemented by the private sector, namely from shipping companies.
After the panel discussion, Olli-Pekka Pietiläinen (Finnish Ministry of Environment) presented the Finnish National context and the KuntaKaisu Programme, which aims at accelerating climate action at local and subnational level, with 1M per year for the period 2018-2020 for improving the knowledge base for emission calculation and impact assessment (2018), explore innovating funding opportunities and practices, and then disseminating and replicating these good practices in municipalities and regions fostering joint projects between local governments (2019-2020).
A lively discussion with participants highlighted the buildings and construction sector as key to achieve higher energy efficiency through renovations, along with the heating sector. The participants also expressed the need of more guidance from the national level, on tools to calculate costs of investments in these sectors and related energy savings – to inform decision making. Participating municipalities also welcomed the proposal of exploring pilot projects and local experimental approaches to be mainstreamed to accelerate the energy transition.
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