Cities in Action: Low-Carbon Action in Helsinki

The Urban-LEDS European Project City of Helsinki aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2020, and to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2014 the City commissioned the study, “Helsinki’s 30% GHG emissions reduction”, to investigate a range of scenarios and cost estimates for achieving the City’s climate goals based on emissions trends using a business-as-usual model. The study was conducted by the Gaia Group and the Finnish Environment Institute, in co-operation with the City.

The priorities identified to reduce emissions included replacing coal with biomass through the city-owned energy company, Helen Ltd, and its energy development program, which is projected to reduce emissions by 500 kilotons of CO2e by 2020. In addition, the City’s economic control measures in transportation and the renovation of old buildings will be instrumental to reducing emissions. The measures examined in the study have the potential to reduce total emissions in Helsinki by 44% by 2020 (using 1990 as a base level), with an emissions reduction of 92% by 2050.

Lessons Learned

Gathering data is key to low-carbon scenario planning. The study proved that carbon neutrality is not only possible in Helsinki but is cost-effective. For example, land-use planning that reduces traffic emissions, coupled with road pricing, can help avoid costly investments in road infrastructure. The estimated total socio-economic effect of the studied measures amounted to an annual cost-saving of €63.5 million. If indirect effects, such as the impact on health, were also considered, the savings would be even higher.

Integrating data into larger policies and plans. The results of the study are used in the Climate Roadmap, currently under revision, to guarantee Helsinki reaches its carbon neutrality and climate-proof city goals. The roadmap will create awareness among citizens by visualizing targets and measures to help citizens and companies to realize Helsinki’s low-carbon goals.

For more information, please visit the City of Helsinki and the Urban-LEDS project websites.


Photo © Claudio Mufarrege.

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