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Finnish cities set ambitious goals for climate negotiations

Turku, Vaasa, Espoo and Helsinki set a carbon-neutral example with Sitra by travelling to the most exhilarating Nordic event for political decision-makers on a sailing ship...


Tuula Sjöstedt

Communications and Public Affairs Lead


The Finnish cities of Turku, Vaasa, Espoo and Helsinki set a carbon-neutral example with Sitra by travelling to the most exhilarating Nordic event for political decision-makers on a sailing ship.

Nordic cities are eager to show the whole world why the Paris negotiations must set the bar high, while showcasing the cities’ urban sustainability agendas. This summer’s biggest event for opinion-leaders in Sweden, the Almedalen Week, brought together city mayors, municipal leaders and civil society for the first time in a Nordic initiative for climate action. Sitra and the cities of Turku, Vaasa, Espoo and Helsinki were represented at the event.

The emphasis is on cities at the Mayors’ event that launched the Almedalen Week 2015. The gathering of Nordic Mayors explored guidelines for a new climate economy and establishing a joint Nordic road map towards the climate negotiations in Paris in December. The event highlighted the role of leadership, co-operation in existing and new networks, citizens’ involvement and social innovation. Representatives from more than 20 Nordic cities, plus participants from the United States and India, attended the event.

Urbanisation has increased exponentially around the world in recent decades. Most of the economic growth, and technical and business development occurs in cities, these hubs of rapid growth. Population density is growing also in Finland: in the last 35 years, the number of residents living in cities and other urban areas has grown by 25 per cent.

“There is fierce global competition for low-carbon solutions, and Finnish companies have a lot of expertise to offer. However, Finland needs world-class reference areas that serve the export needs of companies. Cities play a key role as drivers of change,” says Sitra’s Senior Lead Tiina Kähö.

While climate change represents the largest risk factor of our time, it also provides huge opportunities for innovation. In the previous climate negotiations, the negotiations have failed on account of individual governments’ inability to lay the foundation for a universal climate agreement. A lot is riding on the next negotiations, to be held in December. Therefore, cities need to step up their role in supporting the national efforts towards making the universal climate agreement a reality in Paris.

Many cities in Finland are also eager to join the Nordic front of cities that are moving towards carbon-neutrality, which is a huge but inevitable global transition. A new type of co-operation between cities, firms and the state can help create new business and jobs. The City of Turku has set itself the target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040, and Vaasa, Espoo and Helsinki have also joined us on the journey.

“Cities must lead the way and bear their responsibility for reducing GHG emissions and stimulating new innovations. Renewable energy will be taking over energy production in Turku by 2020. By 2040, Turku will be a carbon-neutral city – beating Stockholm by an inch. We will also be developing smart systems and circular economy solutions in order to promote sustainable business operations and well-being,” says the Mayor of Turku Aleksi Randell, who will be sailing to Almedalen.

What is Almedalen Week?

Almedalen Week is the most important and advanced political event of its kind in Sweden, gathering 35,000 people for more than 3,000 seminars in the capital of Gotland, Visby. For seven days, politicians and representatives of the business and investment sectors and civic organisations discuss what they think are the best ways to promote economic and social goals in society.

The founders of the Mayors’ event that launched Almedalen 2015 are the Club of Rome, Global Utmaning, Norden, Kairos Future, Stockholm Environment Institute and South Pole Group and WWF, while event partners alongside Sitra include Partnership for Change from Norway and Climate KIC Nordic from Denmark, and from Sweden, Impact Journey, Sustainable Innovation, Mistra Urban Future, Malmö University, Luleå City and SIDA.

Taking part in the discussions in Almedalen was Mayor Aleksi Randell and Development Manager Risto Veivo from Turku, Mayor of Vaasa Tomas Häyry, City of Espoo’s Director of Economic and Business Development Tuula Antola, Project Director for Helsinki’s Östersundom urban development project Ari Karjalainen, Executive Director of the Climate Leadership Council Jouni Keronen, and Sitra’s Senior Lead Tiina Kähö.

We travelled to the event carbon free on the sailing ship Albanus. We sailed from Turku harbour on the morning of 26 June and returned on Wednesday evening 1 July. You can see how our trip went on Twitter @SitraFund #Almedalen #Mayorslead.

Event website and programme:
Cities and mayors leading the new climate economy – the Nordic road to Paris and beyond

Read more about the event at the GreenSolutions Magazine, an interview with Tiina Kähö is on pages 32 to 35.

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