News in Brief - March 2009
Curbing carbon dioxide emissions ahead of schedule
Five Finnish municipalities have resolved to become guinea pigs for measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions well before deadlines for official targets. The two-year Carbon Neutral Municipalities project (CANEMU) is developing new tools to help mitigate climate change, while also promoting more concrete actions.
“One special feature of the project is that it involves five fairly small municipalities in terms of their population. Agriculture and forestry are the main economic activities in Mynämäki, Parikkala, Padasjoki and Kuhmoinen, whereas Uusikaupunki is more industrial,” explains Professor Jyri Seppälä of the Finnish Environment Institute, who is leading the project. “The municipalities are supported by a network of national research institutes and businesses. We want to reach local people and firms, as well as the municipal authorities.”
The actions taken to reduce emissions should also support local economic development. The project has already attracted interest from many firms seeking potential markets for environmentally friendly innovations and new technologies.
"Kind of green economy"
“We’re talking about a kind of green economy where the municipalities’ intensified efforts to save energy, use renewable energy and boost material efficiency create demand for environmentally favourable technologies. It’s essential that we look at potential opportunities to utilise local know-how, particularly among small firms,” says Seppälä.
The municipalities have begun to assess measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions sector by sector. “We start by listing potential measures and development projects for each sector,” says consultant Reijo Laine, who is coordinating the project in Uusikaupunki. “From these lists we define concrete actions. Attitudes have been very positive, though the project is also seen as a challenge, since it means integrating a carbon-neutral approach into all developments and investments. In our central municipal catering facility, for instance, energy-saving has already been chosen as the crucial factor in investments.”
“A wide range of local firms are involved in the project, including a heating firm, a vehicle depot, a chemicals plant, boat manufacturers, a fish processing firm, a wind power facility, and many more businesses – all looking for new markets and competitive advantages,” explains Laine.
Laine believes that the most challenging target group is local residents, who are being actively encouraged through publicity work to change their everyday behaviour with regard to transportation, energy use, and food shopping and preparation. “In changing such habits it’s not necessarily a question of the lack of information or will, but rather getting people to realise that they have a part to play. Mitigating climate change is vital for society as a whole, so everyone has to take responsibility,” he says.