Municipalities will play a key role in solving the climate crisis
An extensive new study sheds light on the current status of municipal climate and biodiversity efforts. The study was commissioned by Sitra and carried out by Sitowise.
Sitowise’s analysis of municipal climate and biodiversity efforts indicates that reducing emissions has already been set as a climate objective in two out of three municipalities in Finland. Conversely, objectives aimed at preventing a loss of biodiversity are still quite rare.
The publication of the study in May 2021 sheds much-needed light on the status of municipal climate and biodiversity efforts. Sanna Vaalgamaa, who was Sitowise’s project manager for the study commissioned by Sitra, says that it constitutes the first extensive analysis of the biodiversity work being carried out by Finnish municipalities. “It was actually a little surprising to see how different municipalities’ biodiversity objectives were,” says Sanna. Only one in five municipalities has set any targets relating to biodiversity.
However, the study indicates that municipalities are much more active when it comes to the climate: two out of three municipalities (that is, 206 out of 309) have set at least one climate objective. According to the study, the most common objective is carbon neutrality. A total of 130 municipalities in Finland have this aim, typically by 2030. Carbon neutrality usually means that the climate emissions caused by a specific area are no greater than the amount of carbon that can be bound from the atmosphere by, for example, forests within that same area.
The report published in May 2021 constitutes the first extensive analysis of the biodiversity work being carried out by Finnish municipalities.
Sanna Vaalgamaa, Sitowise
If municipalities reach their climate targets, they will have achieved an annual reduction in emissions of 20 million tons (Mt). Their emissions would therefore halve in the period 2018 to 2035. This reduction would equate to more than half of the emission reductions required for Finland to reach its carbon neutrality target.
“Municipalities will play a key role in solving the climate crisis and preserving biodiversity. When it comes to the climate, municipalities can influence emissions in a variety of ways, such as through heating, transport solutions and public procurement,” says Sanna.
“During the study, it was gratifying to see how well municipalities have already succeeded in reducing their emissions. However, it’s now important to maintain this momentum. Our task will be to provide municipalities with help in drawing up their carbon neutrality roadmaps and planning mitigation measures,” says Sanna.
Municipal targets relating to biodiversity are currently much rarer than climate-related targets. Only one in five (that is, 64 out of 309) municipalities have set any targets relating to biodiversity.
However, municipalities do have excellent opportunities to strengthen biodiversity in, for example, green spaces and local forests. Biodiversity can also be found in surprising places. “A surprising amount of endangered biodiversity can be found in places such as airports, gravel pits and quarries, and along highways. These constitute a significant resource for nature conservation and, if discovered too late, can cause conflicts and wasted resources between follow-up measures,” says Jaakko Kullberg, a biodiversity expert from Sitowise who took part in the study.
A surprising amount of endangered biodiversity can be found in places such as airports, gravel pits and quarries, and along highways. These constitute a significant resource for nature conservation and, if discovered too late, can cause conflicts and wasted resources between follow-up measures.
Jaakko Kullberg, Sitowise
Although the study shows that municipalities have been carrying out one-off measures for a long time, more information about nature values and especially ecological networks is required for setting targets and planning environmental action. “The surveys and interviews conducted as part of the study revealed a dire need for joint steering and support,” says Sanna.
The study indicates that the following are required for carrying out biodiversity work in municipalities:
The study also stresses that funding, expert support, advice, research and collaborative networks (to spread best practices, for example) are required to strengthen the aforementioned groundworks.
Article’s main image: Jussi Lassila