Helsinki Design Week – Climate College, Welcoming words, 4 September 2020

Helsinki Design Week – Climate College, Welcoming words, 4 September 2020

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Climate College Attendees,

I want to wish a warm welcome to everyone who has joined us here today, in person or virtually. The reason we are here is the most crucial challenge of our time: the climate crisis. COVID-19 hasn’t cancelled climate change.

We are here today, because cities play a crucial role in fighting the climate crisis. Over 50 percent of the world’s population live in urban areas. Cities use over two-thirds of the world’s energy, and are responsible for over 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Cities are also the places where issues such as traffic, housing and heating are solved and implemented on a practical level.

Climate change is a global crisis that cannot be solved through quick fixes. We do however believe that by bringing together the best and the brightest – which all of you here today represent – solutions for a better future can be found. And Helsinki – which aims to be the most functional city in the world – is just the place to test those solutions and bring them into life.

Helsinki has taken a leading role in the transition towards a sustainable future by making it a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2035. This project – becoming carbon neutral by 2035 – contains 147 practical steps that enable Helsinki to reach its ambitious goal. All levels of the city departments are included in the process. These steps are both big and small, but they all lead in the same direction. They include many aspects of traffic, construction and the use of buildings, heating, circular economy, smart and clean business, carbon sinks and much more. They are continually evaluated, and anyone can log onto the internet to see which these steps are, and where in the process we are in fulfilling them.

Helsinki has adopted a holistic approach on climate action. Instead of individual programs or projects, the city aims to make sure that climate action is taken into consideration in everything the city does. The implementation is a cross-departmental undertaking that includes every level of the city organization.

This event today will introduce some ideas for climate-friendly urban planning and other best practices and solutions that will help cities like ours to achieve that goal.

Helsinki seeks to be a pioneer in the areas of sustainable urban development and climate change mitigation, but we also want to serve as a platform for ground-breaking and innovative solutions. Our priority must be to stick to global climate goals, and if anything, to be even more ambitious in our actions. Instead of agreements or statements, we need systemic changes and actions with real impact.

Many cities around the world now look to us for answers, but we also look to them. We ask them to work with us to innovate. An excellent example of this is the Helsinki Energy Challenge. In it we call on innovators from all around the world to use Helsinki as a testbed for truly sustainable urban heating solutions. Currently, more than half of the city’s heat is produced with coal. In order to achieve carbon-neutrality, we need radically new solutions to meet Helsinki’s heat demand. And we are not alone. To fight climate change, sustainable heating solutions are needed in cities all over the world. It is truly imperative that we swiftly move beyond the burning of coal and biomass to come up with clean solutions.

That is why we have launched the Helsinki Energy Challenge. A global one-million-euro competition to answer the question: How can we decarbonise the heating of Helsinki, using as little biomass as possible?

We need new innovative solutions, even if they might mean significant changes to our existing systems. This is where design thinking can be of immense help.

The Helsinki City Strategy includes a combination of the “three D’s” – Design, Dialogue and Digitalization. These “D’s” are essential building blocks of our vision: one that also takes us closer to our objective of carbon-neutrality by 2035.

Pragmatic and human-centered cities are at the forefront of the climate battle, and Helsinki is proud to be one of the advocates in this fight. Today’s Climate College will introduce you to interesting speakers and viewpoints on topics such as urban planning and the eco-friendly future of cities.

I hope you all leave here today inspired by what you heard. I believe the programme will give you an interesting overview of the steps the City of Helsinki is taking to protect and nurture the beautiful planet we share. Thank you.”