Climate change is the greatest and most serious challenge of our times. Cities are key to the urgent action required to mitigate climate change. Helsinki takes its responsibility for climate action seriously.
According to the Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan, recognized for its internationally ambitious goals, Helsinki seeks to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Activities in Helsinki will from 2035 onwards no longer warm the climate
Helsinki plans to reach this goal by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more from 1990 level. Helsinki will offset the remaining 20 percent by climate action outside the city borders and by increasing carbon sinks. Helsinki’s emission calculations take into account emissions generated within city borders; they do not include emissions generated outside the city, such as air travel and food, products and services produced elsewhere.
The majority of carbon dioxide emissions generated in Helsinki – 56 percent – is caused by heating. The next biggest source is transport with 24 percent of emissions, and the third biggest source is electricity use with 15 percent. The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan lists 147 actions to reduce these and the remaining emissions.
Energy-efficiency upgrades in the old building stock present the greatest potential for emission cuts
Very strict and binding energy efficiency requirements have been set for the city’s own building stock both in new and repair construction. In addition, local production of renewable energy, heat and electricity will be increased. The city’s measures are extensive and, therefore, significant also in terms of their effects, since the requirements concern all premises and service buildings of the City as well as the residential buildings of Helsingin kaupungin asunnot Oy.
As for the new construction of the City’s premises and service buildings, the energy efficiency score is 20 percent lower than the national standards. In repair construction, the maximum allowed energy consumption is 80 percent of the requirement of the national standard. A photovoltaic system is implemented in all new premises and service buildings of the City, and the possibility of applying geothermal energy as the main heating system is examined in the case of newly constructed buildings. At renovation sites, the possibility of utilizing geothermal energy is always considered. Photovoltaic systems are installed to existing building stock. 4.5 million euros have been reserved for this in the City’s budget for 2020. Air source heat pumps are installed to electrically heated buildings.
The energy class of the newly constructed residential buildings of the City of Helsinki is “A”. In the repair construction of residential buildings, the maximum allowed energy consumption is 80 percent of the requirement of the national standard. All new residential buildings are equipped with solar panels wherever technically feasible. The possibility and profitability of utilizing geothermal energy is always examined at renovation sites, and solar panels are installed wherever technically feasible. Separate energy efficiency improvement measures are implemented in addition to the renovation projects.
Also the preparations for the Energy Renaissance project of the City of Helsinki, the aim of which is to improve the energy efficiency of private building stock, are in their final stages. Upgrades to achieve major improvements in energy efficiency should ideally be scheduled to take place in conjunction with large-scale building renovations. As only a small percentage of the Helsinki building stock is owned by the City of Helsinki, it is important to recruit citizens and all organizations in activities to achieve targeted cuts. The majority of the activities will be economically beneficial to property owners and users in the long run. Many of them also improve living comfort.
Measures to cut emissions from heating include information provided by the City for citizens and organizations on energy renovations and renewable energy. Furthermore, the City steers urban planning to support carbon neutrality. Building control also steers development towards energy-efficient solutions and renewable energy. The entire carbon footprint of materials and activities is considered in construction, and wood construction is promoted. The City compiles all energy-related data on its building stock into a 3D map application labelled Helsinki Energy and Climate Atlas.
Carbon neutral Helsinki can only be achieved through cooperation among citizens, the City, businesses and other organizations
Helsinki has already advanced a great deal with consistent climate action. The city’s emissions were cut by 28 percent from 1990 to 2018, although the city’s population grew rapidly. Per-capita emissions were cut by 45 percent. Nevertheless, Helsinki will need to cut emissions more and faster.
Helsinki has developed carbon neutral Helsinki monitoring tool, Helsinki Climate Watch, in which anyone can monitor the progress of any action, and all data on actions will be compiled in the tool. Estimates of emissions, costs and other action-related information, together with their calculation principles, will be made public, and anyone can comment on them. The public will also be invited to give feedback. The actions will be updated on the basis of feedback and new research data.