Finnish project proves that with the help of modern technology such a target is attainable at current energy prices.
9 October 2010
Carbon neutral municipality - not a utopian idea
Two years ago, five Finnish municipalities decided
to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by more than
required under EU objectives, and ahead of
schedule. Now, the project proves that with the help
of modern technology such a target is attainable at
current energy prices. Approximately one third of
the target would be reachable by enhancing energy
efficiency. The remaining part would be feasible by
replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
The municipalities aim to achieve carbon neutrality, i.e. to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions
by a minimum of 80 percent from the 2007 level by 2030. One of them has adopted an even more
ambitious objective: a 30 percent reduction on the 2007 emissions level by 2012.
In 2008, the municipalities participating in the Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Canemu) project -
Kuhmoinen, Mynämäki, Padasjoki, Parikkala and Uusikaupunki - took immediate and concrete
steps to cut emissions.
Since then, they have taken more than 70 measures to enhance energy efficiency, energy saving, the
use of renewable energy sources, and pro-environmental investments. A further more than 60
measures are being planned.
The municipalities have, for instance, adopted the practice of including municipal emission
reduction measures as part of the municipal budget. Mynämäki has integrated the promotion of
renewable energy sources into its urban planning process.
A special feature of the project is that municipal authorities, local residents and business
representatives work together to meet emission-reduction targets.
Key success factors, multiple benefits
The project has been able to find success factors underlying emission reduction measures. These
include municipal management becoming committed to such measures, while understanding that
emission reduction is an opportunity for the municipal economy and business life.
Measures for curbing emissions must extend to all municipal sectors and decision-making.
Enterprises must be provided with tools for fostering energy efficiency and reducing products?
Both enterprises and citizens need concrete information on suitable energy solutions. Local media
play a major role in communicating on successful measures undertaken by stakeholders ? the
municipality, local residents, or an enterprise.
?Municipalities can give momentum to emission-curbing measures, based
on relatively small resources, if a motivated person is in charge and has
management support. However, it pays for small municipalities to pool
their resources,? says Professor Jyri Seppälä, who has overall
responsibility for the Canemu project.
?A major share of an additional person?s wage can be found in energy
savings in municipal operations. These are savings that a skilled employee
can achieve through his or her actions,? says Mr Seppälä.
Municipalities are both setting an example and facilitating action taken by citizens and business life.
Enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings is viewed as an investment target, while new potential
and a boost to employment are seen in renewable energy sources and environment-friendly
Alongside a broad network of experts from other research institutes and enterprises, the Finnish
Environment Institute (SYKE) lends support and expert assistance in this work. Measures
previously carried out separately and single-handedly are now viewed as being part of a larger
entity, while contributing to a common goal.
?Uusikaupunki?s encouraging atmosphere is attracting new enterprises to the city, to participate in
the cooperation underway,? says Professor Seppälä.
?In turn, this creates new jobs. The pro-environmental approach is seen as a competitive asset that
motivates enterprises to invest in environment-friendly action.?
Examples of concrete results
One of the project?s most significant private sector measures is
underway in Uusikaupunki, in the shape of the Yara fertiliser plant?s
investment in catalyst technology. This will cut the factory?s
greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 90 percent.
Another remarkable initiative is the closed circulation energy
solution devised by Sybimar Oy. This facilitates the utilization of
nutrients, water and carbon dioxide in energy and food production.
Town center district heating solutions based on renewable energies, have proven the fastest way of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The participating municipalities have huge potential to increase
the utilization of renewable energy sources through local resources, while saving energy by
improving the energy efficiency of premises, for example.
In Parikkala alone, a 2.5 percent reduction in overall emissions from municipal buildings was
achieved. This was done by replacing oil heating for a school with a wood-pellet-fuelled heating
system. The payback period on investments was less than three years.
An example of the active approach adopted by local residents is the establishment of a working
group of holiday residents in Kuhmoinen and Padasjoki.
This group began to analyze emissions from holiday homes and to think up ways of reducing them.
A result of the working group?s efforts is the carbon calculator HiMo2, for calculating greenhouse
gas emissions from holiday homes.
The project has also devised a Climate Diet calculator for assessing a person?s climate weight. This
tool, intended for everyone living in Finland, will also be launched in the five municipalities.
Deepening international cooperation
The second phase of the Canemu project will continue until the end of 2012, based on funding by
the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), enterprises and the Finnish
The aim is to continue concrete measures to reduce emissions, to enhance cooperation with
organisations and advisory networks, to disseminate the tools, information and practices created in
the project to other municipalities, and to deepen cooperation with corresponding international pilot
Finns roll up their sleeves to mitigate climate change