Pidin seuraavan puheen 26.4.2021 Euroopan neuvoston kuntakongressin tapahtumassa Let’s talk local: cities and citizens in the fight against climate change. Tilaisuus oli osa maailman demokratiafoorumia.
Thank you for having me here to talk about this most important topic of our lifetimes.
Here in Turku, Finland, we are committed to the idea of global change being done locally. Turku has a Climate Plan which sets out the ambitious goal to become fully climate neutral by 2029, for its 800th birthday. Turku will then be a climate positive area area 2029, which means that our net emission from then on will be increasingly negative. The Climate Plan is made “by the people, of the people and with the people” of Turku.
This is a very ambitious goal for a city, the most ambitious in Finland actually, but by now, Turku is on track to implement the Paris Agreement and halt climate change to 1.5 degrees warming. We listen to science and act accordingly. By now, we have already halved our green-house -gas emissions from the level of 1990 and are one of the best climate cities globally. During the same time, our economy has grown steadily.
Climate actions have tremendous positive impacts on health, well-being, safety and economy. This synergy between climate action and the visible benefits to citizens needs to be communicated effectively. For instance, we have transformed our energy system from fossils to renewables and by doing so also strengthened circular economy and local innovations. We have also started with climate neutral healthy food in the food services of our city.
Furthermore, our investments in cycling and walking, and in carbon sinks such as parks and forests, improve health and wellbeing, ecosystems and biodiversity and help us to cope with exceptional weather incidents. There’s still a long way to go, though, especially in traffic.
Stakeholder involvement is imperative
We recognize the fact that the city cannot reach the climate goals on its own. It is imperative to involve our citizens, businesses, stakeholders and other communities. I will try to give you some concrete examples on how citizens and stakeholders are involved.
In Turku, everybody is encouraged to become a “Climate Agent” and contribute with concrete climate actions. There is a shared platform for climate action where private companies and public entities can join our Climate Team by committing to different climate actions. Celebrities are also promoting this Climate Team.
These actions include everything in scale from low-emission shipping to providing e-taxi-service to disabled people – from energy-positive student-housing to use of all-year-round city-bikes. Furthermore, our universities are contributing strongly to climate knowledge and low-carbon innovations, through e.g. a science competition called “Beyond 2030”. University of Turku has committed to become carbon-neutral already by 2025.
We have also invited everyone to join the climate work in their everyday lives. In the so-called “1.5-degree life” concept, we communicate and support climate-friendly living, and challenge our citizens to make climate actions. The point is to create sense of community – we are all in this together, and there are many ways to a 1.5-degree life.
Many tools, better decisions
We have involved the youth of our city through e.g. a video competition about climate-friendly lifestyles and through climate forums that are distributed to all our schools. We have a Facebook group for our citizens and stakeholders that want to join our “Climate Team”. We have provided a carbon-footprint calculator to our citizens to help everyone reach low-carbon daily living. We have involved citizens in city planning through e.g. hearing procedures and participatory budgeting, and also implemented tools like Citizens’ Panel about traffic – this was particularly successful. We have also trained our employees in climate action.
The fact is: Participation creates better decisions, increases shared knowledge and understanding and supports climate-friendly economy and jobs.
It’s also a fact that the City of Turku can only reduce half of the region’s emissions by itself, for example by investing in sustainable energy, infrastructure and transport and promoting circular economy. But: The rest of the area’s emission reductions will require efforts from businesses, communities and residents. The city can enable, but not force. That’s why we need to do this together.
So in 8 years we will celebrate Turku’s 800th Anniversary, and also become one of the first climate positive areas in the world. There could be no better gift created together for the city and the citizens.