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Helsinki’s emissions are not decreasing as expected – more effective action is needed

The City of Helsinki has set itself the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030. Although significant emission reductions have already been made, the development is too slow in relation to the target. The Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme aims to reduce direct emissions, and the city responds to the challenge by updating the programme.

The implementation of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme to achieve emission reductions was started in 2018. The programme is now being updated in line with the guidelines of the new city strategy so that it will meet the carbon neutrality target that has been brought forward to 2030 and respond to the challenging emissions situation. The Helsinki City Board will discuss the proposal to update the programme at its meeting on 15 August 2022.

“The emissions development is in the right direction but far too slow. In order to achieve the objectives, more effective and determined action is needed. The city is strongly committed to the climate objectives, and they are taken seriously. We must now prioritise effective action,” says Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, director of the emission reduction programme.

Effectiveness at the forefront of the updated programme

The renewed logic of the programme is based on effectiveness – it prioritises actions that lead to direct emission reductions and in which the city itself has the most influence. These include, in particular, mobility, construction and energy solutions.

The reform takes advantage of what has been learned in the past: the city has analysed the measures already taken and their effectiveness. On the basis of this analysis, the programme is now focused on the most effective measures that are not already being promoted as part of the city’s other programmes. In the future, the measures will be updated annually as part of the budget process, which will allow for a faster response to changing circumstances.

As regards emissions from transport, the targets have not been met in many respects and will not be met with the current measures. Therefore, the updated programme proposes that the city examine in more detail the most effective means of reducing transport emissions under its own control.

Other measures proposed for 2022 include adjusting the ventilation of the city’s office premises to be demand-controlled, using low-emission concrete in infrastructure projects, replacing outdoor lighting sources with LED lights and developing regional heating solutions.

Within the framework of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme, the city has already made a significant contribution to the energy efficiency of buildings, among other things, and the work will continue. The city’s new service buildings and those to be renovated will be built to be energy-efficient, and the use of geothermal and solar energy will be promoted in construction projects. When the city plans and assigns plots for the construction of blocks of flats, the buildings are required to have energy class A. The city has also started to offer housing companies free advice on promoting energy renovations.

Towards an 80% drop from 1990

The objective of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme is to reduce direct emissions from the reference year 1990 by at least 80% by 2030, and the remaining 20% or less can be offset.

By 2021, the emission reduction was 33%. In addition to the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme, the city also needs the efforts of other actors to achieve carbon neutrality, such as Helen Ltd’s fuel solutions and changes in mobility habits.

Picture: Janne Hirvonen.