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Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Annual Meeting, Mayor Vapaavuori’s greeting

Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Annual Meeting, Mayor Vapaavuori’s greeting

Distinguished guests,

It’s an honor and a privilege as a new member of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance to host you all in Helsinki.

You have gathered here to talk about transformational leadership. It is difficult to imagine a more topical subject. Our time has come – we will be the first generation to truly sense the urgency of the climate change impacts, and the last generation that could be able to take the course towards salvation of our planet.

In recent years, it has become clear that many of the world’s most profound transformations –  from digitalization and climate change to urbanization –  take place at the local level. Cities are the new powerhouses of the world. We are responsible for providing the best possible conditions for the everyday lives of our citizens. Increasingly, this also means taking global responsibility beyond our physical borders.

Set forth in 2017, the Helsinki City Strategy illustrates many areas in which the city can be a pioneering local implementer of global responsibilities. Helsinki’s vision is to be the world’s most functional city. Ensuring comprehensive economic, social and ecological sustainability is one of the growing city’s core missions.

The city strategy includes a commitment of making Helsinki carbon neutral by 2035, speeding up the goal by 15 years from the earlier target year 2050. An interim goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 1990 to 2030. So far Helsinki has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% per capita, but due to rapidly growing city population this translates to a total of 27%.

Helsinki has adopted a comprehensive Carbon Neutrality programme that covers every aspect of city life. Strong commitment from city leadership has ensured, that the programme is integrated to all city agencies and set forth at every level of the organization. Our approach is pragmatic and systematic. It promotes a holistic implementation that transforms city organization. This requires leadership, as many of the more self-evident improvements have already been made. The more complicated issues we approach the more committed our approach needs to be.

The programme includes 147 concrete measures from electric busses to retrofitting; from increasing the use of recycled materials in construction to installing intelligent street lighting – that are all based on research and data. We measure our success in the implementation with systematisms. This ensures that the measures taken will not be isolated incidents but will have a profound impact on the way we live, work, move and interact within the city framework. Instead of individual actions we will change our way of life.

The fight of climate change has also inspired us to take a leadership role in the local city-level implementation of the United Nation’s Agenda2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Last year Helsinki became the second city in the world to commit to the Voluntary Local Review of the Global Goals. Following the model set forth by the City of New York the goal of the commitment is to illustrate the successes and challenges of Helsinki’s progress toward achieving the SDGs, to produce understandable and open information, and to encourage open dialogue on sustainability within the local and global community.

Our prime responsibility is to recognize the powers impacting our world, foresee the magnitude of these changes and prepare our governance for these new circumstances; ensuring a sustainable future to our citizens. Security and a sense of mutual confidence are the cornerstones for the success of any city, and especially important in climate mitigation work where people’s everyday choices and behaviours play a key role.

Success in climate action requires everyone’s participation – nations, cities, corporations, NGO’s and individual people must joint this fight. The changes needed will transform our way of life permanently. Not everyone will be willing or able to respond to this need. Our cities’ leadership will be the crucial element of success.

Helsinki is fully committed to this vision – every person within the city administration from the top leadership down will be a resource for this transformation. Thank you, and welcome.