Lahti, a city in Finland currently estimated to have a population of 120,000, was awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2021 and has continued to pioneer in emissions reduction and environmental action. The European Green Capital Award was created in 2010 and is awarded to one city each year that sets an example for other cities through its notable environmental action and development of innovative solutions to combat climate change.
Finland has adopted the ambitious goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2035, 15 years before the EU aims to be climate-neutral. Still, Lahti has adopted the even more ambitious goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2025. Lahti also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2025 compared to 1990 levels and to become a zero-waste circular economy city by 2050.
To achieve these goals, Lahti has created an emissions reduction strategy focused on engaging the local population, encouraging sustainable modes of transport through developing safer and more comprehensive bike paths and fortifying its circular economy. In 2017, the country released its first roadmap for a circular economy, and as of 2021, more than 99% of household waste is recycled. One-third of household waste is used to make recycled materials, while the other two-thirds is used to produce energy. The use of recycled materials to produce energy, along with the use of local, certified wood, allowed Lahti to abandon the use of coal in 2019.
To increase citizen involvement in emissions reduction, Lahti has hosted events like a Lahti Block Party, where the people of Lahti planted herbs and flowers and installed energy measurement devices in schools to raise children’s awareness of energy usage. Lahti is also one of 13 cities in the Climate Campaigners app launched in 2021. The Climate Campaigners app offers citizens challenges that they can complete to become more CO2-neutral and allows citizens to track and analyse their CO2 savings. Citizens who complete challenges receive rewards that incentivise them to continue completing challenges, such as organic t-shirts and free bike share.
Additionally, Lahti launched a CitiCAP app between May 2020 and March 2021, allowing residents to engage in personal carbon trading. Each week, users receive a weekly carbon budget. If users did not consume their weekly budget, they earned credits to exchange for discounts on consumer services, products or city services. While the app faced difficulties ensuring users understood the logic behind carbon trading and suffered a delayed launch due to the citywide cyberattack that affected Lahti in 2019, CitiCAP marked the world’s first citywide pilot of citizens’ carbon trading.
With regard to present and future environmental action, Lahti has developed a 2030 Sustainable Energy and Climate Action plan that creates a roadmap for ensuring that the city is carbon neutral by 2023. As a part of Lahti’s sustainable energy and climate action plan, the Environmental Developments Unit of the City of Lahti monitors the plan’s implementation every other year and a new emissions calculation is released every four years.
The plan includes over 90 measures related to climate mitigation and adaptation, names a responsible body in charge of executing the measures, states the progress of the measures, and delineates how the measures should be prioritized based on their emissions reduction efficiency. An example of one of the measures is that electricity and biogas will be used to run local transport by 2030, which Lahden Seudun Liikenne, who is in charge of local and regional bus transport, has been tasked with executing. Another example measure is that the city’s old district heat boiler will be replaced with a new bioenergy boiler, which Lahti Energia has been tasked with executing.
Lahti’s active attempt to engage its citizens in becoming more informed about climate change and how they can reduce emissions, paired with the city’s implementation of an ambitious climate action plan that is being actively monitored and adapted, makes it a model that other EU cities should follow. The use of apps like Climate Campaigners and the installation of energy measurement devices in schools can readily be adopted by other EU cities. They will teach both adults and children to reduce their emissions. Lahti’s decision to recycle household waste and use it to create other materials and energy is also an intelligent solution that facilitates waste reduction and can assist other cities in eliminating their need for coal.
In essence, through its well-delineated goals and actions, Lahti demonstrates the strides cities can make in reducing emissions when the need for climate action is recognized and prioritized.
This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard EU author Brittany Demogenes.
Contacts for Leaders of Community Effort
Ms. Elina Ojala, Environmental Director, City of Lahti, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Pekka Timonen, Mayor of Lahti, email@example.com
Image Courtesy of: https://fcb.visitfinland.com/en/discover/destinations/lahti/