HELSINKI, FINLAND--(Marketwired - September 29, 2017) - Helsinki City Council voted unanimously on September 27, 2017, to pass a proposal for a new city strategy including the goal to render Helsinki carbon neutral by 2035. The vote accelerated the achievement of carbon neutrality in Helsinki by 15 years from the earlier target set for 2050.
Leading to 2035, Helsinki seeks a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in 1990-2030.
In his address presenting the strategy proposal to the City Council, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori declared that Helsinki should assume a globally pioneering role in the biggest challenges of our times including climate change. "Helsinki should be a forerunner in finding local solutions for climate action," he said.
"Helsinki's new climate goals mean that we will have to start applying totally new measures to cut emissions compared with those undertaken up until now," says Helsinki climate expert Jari Viinanen, pointing out that the current measures enable Helsinki to far exceed its target for 2020 to cut emissions by 30% and would have enabled an up to 50% cut by 2030.
Helsinki envisions to make the biggest strides toward 2030 in the transportation sector, reducing emissions by 55% with the help of sharp increases in electric vehicles and biofuels. For example, Helsinki aims to make public transportation emission-free by 2020. Further, Helsinki promotes walking, cycling, and public transportation by rail.
Other measures to be implemented by 2030 include increasing renewable energy production and energy efficiency. The energy efficiency of the old building stock is to improve by 15% with retrofits and that of new construction projects by 65% compared with the current building average.
To achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, Helsinki intends to cut emissions by 80% from 1990 and to compensate for the remaining emissions. A program of measures leading to 2035 will be completed in February 2018.
Carbon neutrality by 2035 will require Helsinki first to abandon coal from its energy palette and possibly to abandon natural gas at a later stage. The move would be in line with the Finnish government plan to ban the burning of goal for energy as the first nation in the world.
The Helsinki energy company Helen's combined district heat and power (CHP) process is half fueled by coal and one-third fueled by natural gas. Helen envisions that the path from fossil fuels to carbon-neutral energy production will go via an interim stage of a biobased economy.
"In addition to renewable energy sources, replacements to fossil fuels can come from smart energy solutions, such as energy recycling by the utilization of waste heat by heat pumps," Viinanen envisions.
For example, Helen's Katri Vala heat pump plant generates district heat by recovering heat from purified sewage water and from district cooling water after it has been heated in the cooling process. Helen will complement Katri Vala with a second heat pump plant in 2018. Helen has also pioneered data centers where the heat produced by servers is recovered and used as district heat.
Helsinki's climate goals are in line with those of other Nordic capitals and markedly exceed the goals set by the EU, which seeks 40% cuts in member countries by 2030 and 80-95% cuts by 2050 from 1990 levels.
Helsinki's new strategy seeks to make Helsinki the world's most functional city, to ensure sustainable growth, and to provide good everyday life for all residents.