Helsinki - Significant progress undermined by heating needs

Assessment of the territories’ climate action


Association Climate Chance (Climate Chance)

Since 2015, the Climate Chance Association has been involved in the mobilization in the fight against climate change. It is the only international association that proposes to bring together on an equal footing all non-state actors recognized by the UN. In order to strengthen their action and to give credibility to the climate stabilization scenarios, the Climate Chance Association launched in 2018 a Global Observatory of Non-State Climate Action, which aims to explain the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions, by crossing national public policies, with sectoral dynamics, private actors’ strategies, local public policies and actions undertaken by local actors. In order to analyse the coherence of local public policies, Climat Chance proposes an assessment of « territorial mobilisations » through selected examples of cities and regions. Here, Helsinki.

With a 24% reduction in global emissions and a 42% reduction in per capita emissions in 2017 compared to 1990, the city of Helsinki is on track to meet its 2020 target and reduce its overall emissions by 30%. In September 2017, the City Council voted on its targets for the next four years, which are integrated into the overall Helsinki City Strategy 2017-2021, «  The most functional city in the world ". This programme is based in particular on the voluntarism of the municipal energy company (Helsinki Energia), which has prepared an ambitious programme on the place of renewable energy adopted by the city council.


To achieve its objectives the city must focus its efforts on district heating, which accounts for 50% of emissions and which will increase by 12% in 2016 due to the use of coal to meet the increase in demand. The increase was limited to 1% in 2017, and offset by emissions from electricity consumption (-5%) and electric heating (-6%), resulting in an overall reduction of 2% in 2017 or 2.67 MtCO2eq. Renewable energies still account for less than 15% of the energy production dedicated to district heating. But the city is currently exploring its geothermal potential with the drilling of more than 3,000 wells, and continues to expand solar panels to power public buildings.

Energy efficiency remains another important lever for reducing the city’s emissions, which has set a target of 7.5% over the period 2017-2025. The first smart thermostat was installed in 2017 to regulate the heating of a pilot building. New standards adopted in 2017-2018 require new public buildings to have «  quasi-zero  energy consumption, » and building permit facilitations are granted to the private sector for low-energy buildings. In addition, the city is improving its data management and usage capabilities with the launch of the 3D atlas, which gathers all data related to the performance and energy consumption, heat leakage, etc. of buildings. It can also be consulted by the various operators in the housing sector.


Emissions from transport have changed little in recent years, with a decrease of 9% since 1990 and 4% compared to 2016, they represent about 20% of global emissions. The city has multiplied initiatives in 2017 to encourage the use of soft or public transport and to achieve carbon neutrality of the latter by 2025 : redevelopment of the network, cycle paths multiplied by 3, extension of the metro, fast charging buses and more efficient electric trams. Recharging stations partly powered by solar energy and intended for electric cars have been installed. Other innovations have also proved their worth, such as the virtual health service that allows nurses to provide care remotely and thus avoid 200,000 km of travel, and an internet platform offering several services to companies such as carpooling, electric bicycles, etc. Finally, Viikinmäki, Finland’s largest wastewater treatment plant, treating the waste of 800,000 people living in Helsinki, became in 2013 the first in the world to record its daily emissions of various gases. Despite the elimination of nitrogen before discharge into the sea recently improved by denitrifying bacteria, the plant emits 134 tons/year of nitrous oxide, in addition to 350 tons/year of methane.