The UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in November sought agreement on ways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Sufficient means and competence to reduce emissions already exist. Many cities, such as Turku, have managed to reduce their emissions in line with the target.
Turku had the opportunity to report on its own climate work at the UN Climate Change Conference. The University of Turku also participated in the Finnish delegation.
For a long time, Turku has encouraged their residents and companies to make climate-friendly choices.
Sustainable energy solutions central
According to Mayor Minna Arve, the environmental conference showed that the energy crisis caused by the Russian war of aggression has increasingly turned attention to sustainable energy solutions in cities.
"In Turku, this work is advanced. For example, district heating in our urban area is produced almost entirely from renewable energy sources".
The Kakolanmäki wastewater treatment plant in Turku is a concrete example of combining environmental protection, circular economy and a sustainable energy system.
"The efficient water purification significantly improves the condition of the Archipelago Sea. The heat pump plant transforms the thermal energy of wastewater into district heating and turns the cooled water into district cooling. Eventually, the wastewater sludge produced as a result of the process is turned into biogas. This, if anything, is resource wisdom at its best."
Climate friendly choices create well-being
Turku's way of working closely with companies and higher education institutions in the region as well as ordinary city residents also attracted interest at The UN Climate Change Conference.
Meyer is currently building the world's first carbon-neutral cruiser in Turku. Secondly, Bayer, that operates a major pharmaceutical plant in Turku, has carbon-neutral business in Finland.
"For a long time, Turku has encouraged their residents and companies to make climate-friendly choices, for example through the 1.5-degree life campaign. We wanted to emphasise that a climate-friendly life is not a life of misery and doing without – it also brings health and well-being to our lives while, at best, giving rise to new business activities."
Examples of climate-friendly new business can also be found in Turku's top sectors: The maritime industry and the pharmaceutical industry.
"Meyer is currently building the world's first carbon-neutral cruiser in Turku. Secondly, Bayer, that operates a major pharmaceutical plant in Turku, has carbon-neutral business in Finland. Thirdly, Green Industry Park, which promotes the industrial business of bioeconomy, circular economy and renewable energy in the entire Turku region, is also starting its operations."
Mayor Arve points out that natural sciences play a very important role in the fight against climate change, but we must not forget the role of social sciences.
"We work together with the Department of Psychology and Speech-Language Pathology of the University of Turku to promote a "climate nudge", which means that we consider together how we can encourage and facilitate the everyday sustainable choices of city residents."
Climate impacts considered in all activities
There has also been interest in Turku's climate budgeting. It is a concrete tool for preparation, steering and monitoring, which makes green investments a natural part of the financial planning and annual management of cities and urban companies.
"I consider it important that resource wisdom and consideration of climate impacts are an integral part of the city's everyday activities, not a separate item that is dealt with when we happen to remember it. I think that Turku has been particularly successful in this work. Concrete research data and our operating methods based on monitoring mechanisms are now ready to be utilised by other cities."
Over the next four years, Turku's climate investments will be nearly EUR 1.3 billion.
Over the next four years, Turku's climate investments will be nearly EUR 1.3 billion. In climate budgeting, the taxonomy classification of sustainable EU funding has been used as the framework for assessing the climate impacts of investments, which enables a multidimensional examination of environmental objectives and, for example, the utilisation of green funding. The Carbon neutral Turku 202vestment programme also provides local companies with the opportunity to test their sustainabsolutions.
Cities have the ability, opportunity and willingness to act
According to Minna Arve, cities play a key role in the fight against climate change.
They emphasise that researched information provides the best basis for decisions, cities have the will and ability to act, cities take responsibility seriously, and partnerships with higher education institutions, companies and networks lay the foundation for effective work.
Mayor Arve is Vice President of ICLEI, a global network of sustainable cities.
Ambitious climate cooperation between cities also stimulates states.
"In this role, I have seen closely how important it is to share best practices between cities. In Turku, we have benefitted significantly from the expert and networking support provided by ICLEI. For example, the "Turku model" of climate budgeting has been developed, tested and evaluated using the experiences of Turku and other cities."
According to Mayor Arve, cities are suitably sized test laboratories for future sustainable solutions.
"I would also like to think that ambitious climate cooperation between cities also stimulates states. However, the work is always more effective when it is done together. We need countries, ordinary residents and companies alike."
No more time to lose
Mayor Arve believes that climate policy needs leadership. However, on a global scale, this leadership has been lost for several years.
"Cities and businesses worldwide see that we no longer have time to lose, and they have taken action. We can push governments towards more ambitious climate work, but in cooperation with governments our work is even more impressive. The future can only be built on sustainable growth, and cities are prepared to be active partners in this work."
Leadership is important in leading the way, but sustainable changes can only be made together.
"The city can be a larger actor than its size when it creates the preconditions for sustainable growth through its own activities and partnerships", Mayor Arve emphasises.
Governments debate, cities act
The UN Climate Change Conference also published the first Summary Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for cities. Risto Veivo, Climate Director of Turku, worked as an invited expert in the preparing of the report.
"In the report, the global data repository of the IPCC has now been compiled and structured specifically for the needs of cities", Veivo says.
Like Mayor Arve, the Climate Director also emphasises the role of cities in climate change mitigation.
"Intergovernmental negotiations were difficult. However, it was clear at the meeting that, at the same time, cities are taking major steps forward. Hope does not live where we negotiate, but where we do practical things", Veivo sums up.
Text: Matti Välimäki