Turku has made good progress in its carbon neutrality goals. Now the city is also encouraging companies, communities, and residents to join the city in its efforts on behalf of the climate. Even small day-to-day acts are significant in its efforts on climate change.
Upper secondary school student Aisha Abudu, 17, took part in a Fridays for Future demonstration in Turku a couple of years ago, inspired by Greta Thunberg.
"It was great to see that there were plenty of young people there. These kinds of demonstrations and movements are of great significance. They send the message to decisionmakers that climate issues need to be taken seriously. We also need them to take concrete action quickly. This is about the future for us all."
Abudu now serves as Chairperson of the Turku Youth Council where young people can promote their interests while advancing their possibilities to wield an influence. Through the Youth Council they get a chance to take part in meetings of the City Council, the City Board, and municipal committees, where they have the right of attendance and the right to speak.
"Much has already been done for the climate in Turku – and in Finland in general. Turku has set a good plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2029. But here, as well as elsewhere, we should have taken action earlier."
"Everybody is needed"
Abudu says that in her own daily life, the efforts made by Turku can be seen in the increased number of electric buses, for example.
"An example of my own climate action is that I usually walk or use public transport, and my food is mostly plant-based. I also have a green electricity contract for my home."
Abudu says that despite feeling climate distress she takes an optimistic view of the future.
"People can ease their anxiety by trying to get involved and by taking concrete action themselves. I believe that a large proportion of people think the same way that I do. However, everyone is needed on board. Everyone can make climatewise decisions."
Empowering youth and access to information
The Mayor of Turku, Minna Arve emphasises that it is important for young people to be able to look to the future with confidence.
"As lack of knowledge increases despair and fear, children and young people should have access to information on climate-related decisions and the opportunity to influence these decisions if they want to."
"Good cooperation with the Turku Youth Council makes it possible to pass on information and strengthen youth empowerment. It is wonderful to see that young people are so well aware of how their own choices can be effective, and like Aisha they are considering matters such as food and transportation."
Climate work creates well-being.
Mayor Arve says that thanks to persevering work, Turku has succeeded in cutting its emissions to half of the 1990 level. At the same time Turku’s economy has grown, and new low-carbon solutions and the circular economy have enhanced knowledge, competitiveness, and work.
"Our work on behalf of the climate has also brought international recognition. In 2020 Turku won the title of Europe's best climate city among mid-sized cities. For three years, Turku has also been on the A List of the world's leading climate cities kept by the international CDP organisation."
"Turku has also applied to join the European Commission’s list of "100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030". The goal of the list is to support at least 100 European cities in their efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030."
"Turku wants to be a proud forerunner in climate-positivity and to encourage others to take the same path."
"The goal is to show that sustainable life increases well-being, eases everyday life, and gives rise to new business, while preventing global warming!"
The 1.5-degree life campaign
The city of Turku can reduce about half of the area's emissions through its own action, but the rest of the emission reductions will require efforts from all businesses, communities and residents.
With the 1.5-degree life campaign the city of Turku encourages its residents to make climate-friendly choices. The name of the campaign refers to the limit set in the Paris Climate Accords for the rise in temperatures.
Project Specialist Iris Kriikkula and Project Specialist Lotte Suveri of the City of Turku point out that small and simple climate action can involve matters such as the use of energy, transportation, consumption, or eating.
"The City of Turku encourages companies and organizations in the area to join the climate action with the help of Climate team. The Climate Team is a network that encourages and inspires the local companies to start their climate work. For example it organises events such as breakfast meetings, where companies can be shown the latest energy-efficient technologies among other climate solutions." Suveri says.
The importance of preparation
In their fresh report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that some of the effects of climate change are already irreversible, which means that it is necessary to prepare and to adapt.
Senior Specialist Miika Meretoja says that the climate plan currently being updated pays special attention to adaptation.
"The city of Turku has sought to learn from two Japanese cities, Nagano, and Obuse, who have lengthy experience of typhoons and cooperation among residents in crisis situations."
"Typhoons are unlikely to reach Turku in the future. Climate change and extreme weather conditions affect developing countries in the south much more severely than the developed countries of the north. However, Turku needs to prepare for lengthy heat waves and floods of runoff water caused by heavy rain."
"Also, in exceptional weather conditions, help might be needed from all city residents. In practice, this means, for example, checking in on an elderly neighbour to see if everything is all right. Neighbourhood organisations in Turku could play an important role in coordinating this kind of activity", Meretoja says.