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Finnish municipalities pledge ambitious carbon emissions target

A growing number of communities across the country are pledging to reduce their carbon footprints well beyond national targets.

Porvoon kirkko
In 2014 the city of Porvoo joined more than 50 municipalities in working against climate change. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Eight municipalities have announced a pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent from 2007 levels by the year 2030. The target of communities taking part in the Carbon Neutral Municipalities project (Hinku) is twice as ambitious as the Finnish government's official emissions goal of curbing emissions by 39 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

More than 40 other local governments have already adopted the project's targets. New members to sign on this year include the municipalities of Ylöjärvi, Nokia, Pirkkala, Kouvola, Parkano, Tampere, Kotka and Orivesi, bringing the total number of residents under the framework of the carbon-cutting initiative to about 1.3 million.

Carbon-neutral cathedral

The biggest challenges that municipalities face are the carbon emissions from heating and traffic, according to project founder professor Jyri Seppälä of the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke).

Porvoo's Lutheran Evangelical Church Cathedral in southern Finland is also aiming for carbon neutrality by the year 2030, partly by phasing out the use of oil heating by 2025.

"We're ahead of our time here in Porvoo," said property manager Dan Tallberg, one of the team members in charge of the cathedral's infrastructure.

"The city can't make the target on its own, so the cathedral's involvement is a perfect example of how other organisations can support climate change action," said Porvoo city's sustainable development head Sanna Päivärinta.

Help from abroad

Municipalities in the Hinku programme were able to decrease emissions by about 25 percent over the last decade, which is a few percentage points higher than the national average. They receive funding for developing their climate work from institutions such as the EU.

"We can now channel support in a new way, thanks to the EU Life project," Seppälä said, referring to a 3.4-billion-euro EU funding mechanism for the environment and climate work. The programme provides funding for an array of bodies in the region, including NGOs, private entities and public bodies.

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