Carbon neutrality is a simple concept – but one enmeshed in highly complex detail. It implies that a city should move away from using fossil fuels and reduce its waste outputs to near-zero.
Several cities have started on the journey to carbon neutrality – led by the flagship urban development of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Some cities may eventually succeed and reach this nirvana. However, others have already fallen by the wayside due to a lack of political commitment and a badly defined roadmap.
The benefits of becoming a carbon neutral city are considerable – including leadership in sustainable development, public transport, urban innovation, and the development of a green economy.
Building a new carbon neutral city from scratch, such as Masdar City, allows the incorporation of innovative design and sustainable development principles from the beginning. This is not a luxury afforded to an existing city whose basic layout and land use patterns have developed over decades or even hundreds of years. This latter category includes the Finnish city of Tampere which recently set the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The City of Tampere has a population over 211,000 and is the third largest city in Finland [located about 175km north-north-west of the capital Helsinki]. It has a long and distinguished industrial history – being a centre for paper production and cotton milling [with the city once being dubbed the “Manchester of Finland”].
Despite the closure since the 1960s of many manufacturing and industrial plants, the city still has a strong industrial and commercial base – hosting a range of companies including Metso, Sandvik and Nokia.
The ongoing regeneration and future development of Tampere is set to be based on a range of new economic activities – telecommunications, the creative economy, ubiquitous computing and digital content, bio-health, nano- and micro-systems, intelligent machines, and future energy technologies.
The development of this new 21st Century economy is being led by the City’s universities, centres of excellence, and a wide range of international and pan-European R&D programmes.
ECO2, Climate Change Objectives and Targets
The City of Tampere has adopted a series of objectives and commitments concerning climate change.
The Council has set the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20% by the year 2020, more than 40% by the year 2030 and more than 80% by the year 2050. It also plans to increase the share of renewable energy as a percentage of the total energy consumed within the city from 6% to 30% by 2020 [utilising locally sourced biomass, waste to energy systems, energy recovery from local sewerage plants, and increased hydro-electric production]. And, just as important, it will give a high priority to energy efficiency measures in existing activities and future city developments.
To implement these challenging targets, the City of Tampere has launched a new programme called ECO2. This new programme has the political support of the current Mayor of Tampere, Timo P. Nieminen, and the City Council.
In order to invigorate the new ECO2 programme, the City of Tampere has hired a team of young staff – mostly from outside the council. The new team will draw together contributions from a wide range of partner organisations within the city. These include the Council’s various departments, the business community, project financiers, universities and research institutes, and community groups. A series of forums are also being established to provide valuable feed-back on a range of sectoral issues [energy utilisation, buildings, transportation, etc].
In Tampere it is accepted that climate protection is a key resource that stimulates R&D activities – and will create new jobs within the City and surrounding region.
Over the next few years a series of demonstration and pilot applications will are planned or anticipated in renewable and clean energy technologies, plus cleantech applications [including the installation of smart grid systems throughout the City].
The city has committed itself to building all its new properties in alignment with the energy class A requirements. In addition, it also challenges all private builders to take part in the initiative. All renovations will be carried out with the aim of improving energy-efficiency and the residents will be tempted to carry out energy renovations through different competitions. In 2011 Tampere will also see the opening of Finland’s first passive energy kindergarten.
Forthcoming developments in Tampere also include a new Central Arena and business quarter which will be built over the railway lines in the city centre [and will be a case study of energy efficient building] – and the suburb Numi-Sorila [City of the Sun].
Tampere’s main Naistenlahti combined heat and power plant [which supplies heat to a district heating scheme] was originally designed to use peat as its primary fuel. It has been converted to burn a range of fuels including biomass/wood fuels.
Public transport will feature prominently in the future development of the city. A solution has been reached concerning a local rail-based transport system and the expansion of existing public transport services.
The recently launched development project ‘ElectriCity’ aims to make Tampere a strong centre in the production of advanced car parts and components, and in the conversion from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles.
A key partner in the new programme is Finnish Innovation Fund – Sitra.
Sitra has committed itself to cooperating with Tampere during the ECO2 project’s start-up phase of 2010-2012. The Executive Director of Sitra’s Energy Programme Jukka Noponen was quoted as saying that: “Tampere has an excellent opportunity to become a national and international example of energy-efficiency. A specific point that interested Sitra in the ECO2 project was Tampere’s readiness to include energy-efficiency thinking and emissions reduction comprehensively in all decision-making within the city management”.
One key element of the work in Tampere is the production of a new planning tool – called HEKO. This will be used in energy planning and holistic design, including calculating the carbon footprint of new developments. HEKO is being developed by the City of Tampere in conjunction with the City of Helsinki and research organisation VTT.
Tampere is also revamping its energy information centre, which has been in existence for eight years. It will be redesigned to provide better and more targeted information for the public – and may soon be supported by an information bus which will travel around the city neighbourhoods and take part in local events [taking information to communities and ensuring a higher level of involvement by the city’s population].
The City of Tampere is involved in the work of several international networks – such ICLEI [Local Governments for Sustainability] and EUROCITIES, as well as several EU R&D programmes. The ECO2 staff are currently looking at work being carried out in cities and communities both in Finland and overseas to find new ideas and best practice which will help the city reach its emission targets.
While it has considerable enthusiasm and ideas, Tampere has a long journey before it reaches the carbon neutral utopia. To follow the city’s progress – go to www.eco2.fi – which contains a project video with English subtitles and will soon have additional English language content.
Alternatively you could contact Elina Seppanen, ECO2 Project Secretary, for further information – firstname.lastname@example.org
Other related news from Finland
Five Finnish municipalities have promised to act as laboratories by working to curb their carbon dioxide emissions ahead of schedule. This ground-breaking project – Carbon Neutral Municipalities (CANEMU) – involves the municipalities of Mynämäki, Uusikaupunki, Kuhmoinen, Padasjoki and Parikkala.
The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) is the principle funding body for CANEMU. The first phase of the project was completed on 31 May 2010. The continuation project, ‘Processes in Municipalities aiming at Carbon Neutrality (proCANEMU)’ will be carried out from 1st June 2010 to 31st December 2012. The total budget is €650,000, out of which €390,000 is funded by Tekes, €175,000 by the Finnish Environment Institute, and €85,000 by a further 30 companies.
The project aims at greenhouse gas emission reductions both in the near future (2-5 years) and in the longer term (6-20 years). Commitment of the municipal authorities, local businesses and residents to emission reductions is seen as essential to its success. Researchers, experts, businesses, politicians and local residents will together devise and tailor solutions that can reduce emissions, especially related to housing, transportation and food production. All the municipalities will strive to increase their use of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency.
A study published in mid-2010 revealed that more than 40 % of Finns prioritise environmentally friendly housing when searching for new property. Energy efficiency and a location with convenient public transport links were considered important by Finnish house buyers. However, ecological building materials and meeting the latest environmental standards were rated as less important. In addition to the positive environmental impacts, savings on living costs and the higher resale value of ecological property were stated as reasons to buy environmentally friendly housing. The Helsinki Times reported that around 670 property buyers across Finland answered the survey conducted this spring.
Compiled by Andrew W. Cox, Energy Intelligence and Marketing Research, UK