Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Quarterly Newsletter September 2012  
       
 
Energy efficiency in Helsinki: An impressive track record
{{{Interview with Jussi Pajunen, Mayor of Helsinki, Finland.}}} For this edition of its monthly interview series with high profile decision makers, the Covenant of Mayors Office is happy to publish the contribution of Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen. As you can read below, the Finnish capital has not been sitting idle over the past few years, with a lot of initiatives being implemented in the fields of energy efficient buildings, street lighting, small-scale energy production, citizen engagement and the like. On top of that, active cooperation with the private sector is underway through the Climate Partners Network initiative, and international exchanges are also promoted through cooperation with Chinese cities.
 
   

What has progressed in Helsinki since the municipal council took the decision to join the Covenant in January 2009 ? Is the city in good track to meet its CO2 reduction objective ? What social and economic improvements can you report so far ?

Helsinki completed the first version of its Sustainable Energy Action Plan in 2010. However, action in this field dates further back in time, as Helsinki already has a long history of implementing energy efficiency initiatives. Since 2009, over 40 public buildings have been energy audited (a total of 500 if we go back to 1995) and dozens of energy efficiency actions and investments have been implemented. Helsinki has invested in small-scale renewable energy production in two schools, an office building and nature centre. In addition, we have been active in developing guidance for the construction of low, passive and nearly-zero energy buildings. As a result, numerous buildings have been constructed along these standards. The number of newly constructed private buildings with « A » energy rating has increased at an impressive pace while the share of « class A » building permits in residential buildings reached 60 % in 2011.

Aside from that, new tools for ecological city planning have been developed. A low emission vehicle zone has been established in the city in 2011 and the number of new charging points for electric cars is on the rise. More than 16,000 street lights have been equipped with more energy efficient lamps. The city-owned energy company Helsingin Energia has been constantly improving the energy efficiency of its CHP plants and cutting the distribution losses in electricity and district heating networks.

Hundreds of city employees have participated in educational events related to CO2 emission reduction and energy efficiency. "Ilmastoinfo", an information centre for citizens was established in 2010. New interactive websites, social media platforms, campaigns and events are being leveraged to communicate with citizens.

As a result of all these initiatives, Helsinki’s CO2 emissions have dropped by 15 % between 1990 and 2011 and per capita emissions are 30 % lower than in 1990.

Last June, Helsinki was represented at the European Sustainable Energy Week to share with other Covenant of Mayors Signatories its experience in cooperating with the private sector. In this context, the Climate Partners Network was highlighted as a landmark project of the city. What would you say are the key success factors of such an initiative ?

The Climate Partners Network aims to increase voluntary cooperation between the city and businesses in the implementation of climate mitigation activities. The objectives of this venture are to reduce emissions in the city area, create new business opportunities and share knowledge about best climate practices. The network was joined by 20 large companies that signed a climate commitment on the occasion of a ceremony held in April 2012. In the pledges, the companies define how they plan to mitigate climate change in their own operations. The intention is that companies set targets that challenge them to improve current environmental performance level or even to go beyond the targets set by the legislation. We intend to monitor actual implementation of these commitments every year.

In November 2011 we held a workshop with companies and other stakeholders, such as research institutes, to build the foundations of future cooperation. The workshop provided us with a good insight into the kind of measures and collaboration businesses are expecting, and conversely what the city stands to benefit from the Network.

Besides businesses, we have also decided to invite supporting organisations, such as universities and other research institutes to join the Network. This initiative gives me good opportunities to meet companies and learn more about their undertakings in the field of climate change.

The Covenant has emerged as the European cooperation platform to share sustainable urban development practices with Chinese counterparts. What do you think of this latest development of the initiative, which now includes over 4,000 signatory cities ? Is Helsinki engaged in such international cooperation activities ?

Helsinki maintains close ties with several Chinese cities. The City of Beijing is our twin city. Environmental issues have always featured high on our political agenda. In light of this, Helsingin Energia, which is an energy utility of the city of Helsinki, has explored how Clean Development Mechanism projects could be carried out with Chinese partners. The results have been very promising so far.

 
     
    >> Covenant Monthly Newsletter September 2012 <<
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  The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the Covenant of Mayors Office. It does not necessary reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The Covenant of Mayors was set up with financial support of the European Commission and consists of five associations of European local authorities: Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, Eurocities, CEMR, and Fedarene.

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