Kalasatama. Photo: Riku Pihlanto.

Helsinki Announces Plan How to Become Carbon Neutral by 2035

A Helsinki expert group has completed a proposal for an action plan that outlines how the city can be rendered carbon neutral by 2035. Entitled Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035, the plan details how to reduce energy consumption and how to increase on-site renewable energy generation in the city. The plan will be implemented side by side with a program to render the city’s centralized energy production carbon neutral.
In September 2017, Helsinki reset the city’s target year for carbon neutrality to 2035, speeding up the goal by 15 years from the earlier target year 2050. An interim goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 1990 to 2030.
“Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 contains 143 actions that enable Helsinki to reach the ambitious goals,” says Esa Nikunen, Director General of Helsinki Environment Services.
Helsinki’s definition of carbon neutrality is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated within the city borders by 80% and to offset the rest.
With the city’s emission reduction programs launched so far, Helsinki has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25% from 1990, that is, by 1,000 kilotons per year (kt/a) but needs to cut an additional 2,000 kt/a, in order to go down to targeted 700 kt/a, which will be offset. The population of Helsinki is estimated to grow from the current 640,000 to 780,000 by 2035.
The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Helsinki is heating. According to the action plan, the city can economically cut the heat energy consumption of buildings by one-fifth with increasingly ambitious energy-efficiency upgrades in the old building stock, stricter standards in new construction, heat recovery, and geothermal heating.
The action plan details how electricity consumption in the city can remain at today’s level, despite trends that increase consumption including electric vehicles. Solar power generated by buildings should be increased to cover one-sixth of the total electricity consumption of the city.
According to the plan, Helsinki can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 69% with the help of increased use of sustainable modes of transportation, regulation, and electric vehicles projected by represent 30% of the total fleet in 2035.
“Helsinki can achieve its goal in transportation, which is much stricter than the national goal, owing to the increasing density in our urban structure. Helsinki has excellent opportunities to promote public transportation, walking, and cycling,” Nikunen says.
The City of Helsinki-owned energy company Helen draws up a separate plan to become carbon neutral, removing coal from the company’s energy palette. Today the company’s combined district heat and power (CHP) process, which heats 90% of Helsinki’s heated building stock, is half fueled by coal and one-third fueled by natural gas. By 2035, Helen’s renewable energy utilization should increase from the current 10% to 70%. Helen will also replace fossil fuels with smart energy solutions, such as energy recycling by utilization of waste heat by heat pumps.
The Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan, together with the effects of Helsinki’s emission reduction programs launched so far, will represent 52% of the total cuts in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Helen’s plan will represent 34%, and national actions and the impact of global warming to reduce heating needs will represent 14% of the total.
The Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan was co-written in an open process according to the City’s principles of transparency, with the help of workshops for civic organizations, stakeholders and researchers, and with all documents displayed online for comments.
The final decisions on the action plan will be made by the Helsinki City Council.
Helsinki’s climate action: http://www.stadinilmasto.fi/en/