New action plan to boost Finland’s sustainable urban development

Press release 2017-06-27 at 15:32
sustainable urban development

Urbanisation is a megatrend shaping the world. It poses many challenges to the wellbeing of both the environment and people. To tackle these challenges, the Ministry of the Environment of Finland is launching a national action plan for sustainable urban development. The priorities are, in particular, low-carbon approach, efficient use of resources, smart services, health and combating inequality.

The action plan is underpinned by international commitments. At a conference held in Ecuador last October, world leaders and ministers agreed on the New Urban Agenda, goals for sustainable urban development set by the UN. Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, represented Finland at the conference.

“The UN has an ambitious approach, and that’s how it should be. More than half of the world’s population is already living in towns and cities, and their population is predicted to increase by 3 billion people over the next 40 years. We are seeing the largest migration in the history of humankind. The only way to cope with it is to manage urbanisation sustainably. The action plan being launched now boosts Finland’s urban development in the right direction,” Minister Tiilikainen says.

An urban agenda has also been created for the EU. This was agreed by the ministers responsible for urban affairs in May 2016. The cooperation framework includes 12 priority themes, from the circular economy to integration of migrants and refugees and from the local environment to air quality.

“The UN goals for sustainable development, measures to secure biodiversity and the Paris Climate Agreement cannot be separated from sustainable urban development. For instance, the battle against climate change is won or lost largely in cities,” says Minister Tiilikainen.

According to the minister, Finland already has much know-how from which to draw. As examples he mentions new-generation biofuels, district heat produced by renewable energy, the energy efficiency of buildings, the utilisation of waste in energy generation, the Smart & Clean project of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and the agreements on land use, housing and transport (MAL) concluded with the main city regions of Finland. Another success story is the Carbon Neutral Municipalities project (HINKU), where at present 34 municipalities in cooperation with enterprises, experts and residents seek to achieve an 80 per cent cut in their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.

“By doing our bit, we can show that Finland also has solutions to offer to the rest of the world. I believe that in the field of sustainable urban development, we can take on a role bigger than our size and can have a place in the forefront of EU Member States,” Minister Tiilikainen says.

The action plan for sustainable urban development now being launched has a term of five years. Its coordination is financed by the Ministry of the Environment. The decision on the action plan was made in spring, during the Government’s mid-term review.

“The aim of the action plan is to strengthen cooperation between the state and cities and, on the other hand, to seek strength from cooperation both among cities and between cities and the surrounding rural areas. We also ask enterprises, universities and civil society actors to be our partners. The action plan is implemented close to people and following the principle of experimental culture. This supports cities’ own activities towards sustainable development,” says Olli Maijala, Ministerial Adviser responsible for the action plan in the Ministry of the Environment.

Inquiries:

Olli Maijala, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 174, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Tea Usvasuo, Political Advisor, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 46 922 8946, firstname.lastname@ym.fi