Address by the Deputy Mayor
The year 2021 was meaningful for both the climate and the environment in Helsinki. We decided on the new City Strategy, which will set the bar higher for our carbon neutrality objectives, set ambitious policies for ensuring biodiversity and requires us to pay more attention to reconciling housing construction and natural values. Helsinki brought its carbon neutrality target forward to 2030. The new City Strategy also specifies that the City will have a zero-carbon target for 2040. The practical decisions that we make during this council period of office will be crucial for achieving the objectives set.
Moving forward, the Carbon-neutral Helsinki Action Plan will be updated annually with new actions. This is key for us to find the best and most effective ways to reach our targets. Last year, our total emissions neither increased nor decreased, since the emissions of Helen increased as much as the emissions of other sectors decreased. Even though this development is partially explained by Russia’s preparation for war and its repercussions, we still need to get back on a downward trend with our emissions. The development of emissions highlights that sustainable solutions must be adopted quickly, even in heating production.
In 2021, we also approved the City of Helsinki Biodiversity Action Plan (LUMO), which has also since been included in the new City Strategy. The plan is a powerful statement for paying attention to biodiversity in all City operations. The new strategy focuses on nature more intensively than before. One of its aims is to have five new nature reserves in Helsinki on an annual basis. The central objectives are the natural ageing of forests and the systematic increase of diversity in forests and forested areas within recreational and natural areas.
Pleasant and diverse local nature is important to Helsinki residents. This is evident in the results of the participatory budgeting voting in which people have selected many projects that aim to make the local environment greener. For example, a total of ten parks were selected in the OmaStadi project to have more meadow-like lawns through changes to the maintenance methods.
One of the milestones towards an even more pleasant and functional city was the completion of the Hämeentie renovation project. Hämeentie street is now safer for pedestrians and cyclists, faster for public transport and quieter for everyone, in addition to having cleaner air. We will face challenges in promoting sustainable modes of transport in the coming years. As the population grows and land use becomes denser, it will be increasingly important to get people back onto public transport after the pandemic to avoid congestions and reduce emissions.
In 2021, Helen made the decision to close the Hanasaari Coal Power Plant and end production there by spring 2023. It was also decided that the burning of coal would stop at Salmisaari Power Plant in spring 2024. These decisions will mark the end of burning coal in our city – over five years earlier than planned. A year from writing this address, we will have closed down one of our coal power plants. It will be a significant step on our journey towards a carbon-neutral capital city.
Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment