Address by the Deputy Mayor
This Environmental Report describes the last full year of our council term. It is evident from the report that brisk efforts have been made in matters related to climate and the environment. This is exactly what a city that knows its responsibility should do.
2020 was an exceptional year in many ways, which is also visible in the achievement of our objectives. Emissions decreased considerably from the previous year. A part of this decrease is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that reduced travel, while another part is due to the decrease in coal combustion. In the future, we must ensure that emissions will continue to decrease sufficiently quickly when life starts to return to normal. The closing of the Hanasaari power plant, the results of the Energy Challenge competition, and our work on the emissions from buildings and worksites are promising signs that we will succeed.
We are progressing towards sustainable mobility: in 2020, we decided upon the tram lines in western Helsinki and approved the Cycling Promotion Programme, which will help make cycling safer and more functional for as many people as possible in the future. New electric car charging points were put into service around the city.
In Helsinki, the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions have clearly shown how important local nature is to the city’s residents. Last year, a record number of people spent time on our beaches and in our parks and forests. This increased the wear to some areas, which requires us to invest more in the areas’ maintenance.
The implementation of the Nature Conservation Programme progressed. Four new nature reserves were established in Helsinki: Haltialanmetsä, which is now the largest nature reserve in Helsinki, as well as three small but extremely important bird islets. Biodiversity has been increased by means such as leaving more decaying trees in managed forests. The restoration of the bird wetlands of Helsinki received funding from the Helmi Habitats Programme. The significance of long-term nature conservation work manifested in a glorious manner when a pair of white-tailed eagles nested in our city for the first time. A total of three chicks hatched in the nest.
The exceptional year made our city quieter and our air cleaner as a result of the reduced amount of traffic. Many Helsinki residents took to bicycles and started undertaking more of their journeys on foot. The target for the proportion of sustainable modes of transport was met, although in an unexpected manner.
Helsinki’s ambitious environmental work is strongly backed by the residents. Combatting climate change, safeguarding biodiversity and maintaining a green environment are what the residents of Helsinki themselves want.
In order to prevent moving from one crisis to another, we must look beyond the pandemic and continuously do our part in fighting the climate crisis and the diminishing of biodiversity. This is a challenge for the next City Council. In the next four years, Helsinki’s climate work will take at least one leap forward with the closing of the Hanasaari coal power plant. And hopefully it is only one leap of many.
Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment