Environmental risks

From the City’s perspective, the most significant environmental risks are fires, oil and chemical spills, soil and water contamination, deterioration of air quality, diminishing biodiversity, disruptions in the railway network and the challenges posed by extreme weather phenomena to healthcare, in particular. Invasive alien species also cause harm. Preparing for these risks is done through systematic actions.

Due to climate change, extreme weather conditions will increase and forecasting will become more difficult. In Helsinki, the Rescue Department is in charge of the response to accidents caused by exceptional weather conditions, the preparation for which was actively developed in 2021. The situations caused by exceptional weather conditions are often wide-scale and long-term in nature and require cooperation and external resources.

There is a great risk of an oil spill in the Baltic Sea. In 2021, the Rescue Committee approved Helsinki Rescue Department’s oil spill prevention and response plan for 2021–2025. The plan aims to introduce stability into oil spill preparation and uphold conditions where the Rescue Department remains prepared for all situations where oil spill prevention and response is necessary. In 2021, stakeholders from inside and outside the City organisation attended the oil spill response training and exercise sessions offered by the Rescue Department. The Rescue Department also participated in the international Balex Delta 2021 oil spill response exercise held off the coast of Pyhtää and Kotka. The exercise was more extensive and involved more countries than any other exercise on environmental damage prevention held in Finland. It is also a part of the cooperation included in the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (by HELCOM). The veterinarian of Korkeasaari Zoo acted as the head veterinarian for the Balex exercise. The information and experience accumulated in the work of the zoo’s wildlife hospital are also being used in the training of oil spill response volunteers.

In the Central Park of Helsinki, the spruce bark beetle has destroyed several hundred spruces in the past years. In summer 2021 and winter 2022, the City cut down dried-up trees in the area. Removing trees overtaken by the spruce bark beetle is essential to secure the old spruce stands in the Central Park that have significant natural and landscape value. The spruce bark beetle is a species that belongs to Finnish nature and benefits from the hot and dry summers that are increasingly frequent due to climate change.

Table 12. Oil spills in Helsinki in 2018–2021.

Oil spills in Helsinki2018201920202021
In waterways13  52  25  38
In essential groundwater basins11  2  11  11
In other areas366  329  325  316