The Green City Accord (GCA) is an initiative from the European Commission that seeks to improve and promote healthy urban environments within the EU. GCA’s vision is a healthier, cleaner and greener city, an environment in which residents can live and work safely and enjoy maximum health and well-being.
The City of Helsinki supports sustainable development in many ways, from city planning, energy production and traffic planning to waste and water management and environmental protection.
“Helsinki has a variety of measures that work towards the implementation of the UN’s sustainable development goals and sustainable urban development. The Green City Accord is an initiative with which we can strengthen our cooperation with different countries within Europe. International cooperation is important when cities are looking for solutions to challenges such as those posed by climate change. We want to both learn from others and share our experiences,” says Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki.
By signing this initiative, Helsinki commits to achieving five different goals by 2030:
1. a significant improvement in the quality of air as soon as possible, based on WHO guidelines and EU air quality standards,
2. a significant improvement in the quality of water in different waterways (e.g. lakes, streams, rivers, coastal waters) and sustainable water use,
3. protection and improvement of the diversity of urban nature, including the quantity and quality of green space in the city, as well as stopping the decline of and restoring urban ecosystems,
4. development of the circular economy and waste treatment by significantly improving waste management in households, reducing the generation of waste and its dumping into landfills, as well as by increasing the reuse, repair and recycling of products, and
5. reduction of noise pollution to the level prescribed by WHO recommendations.
Helsinki’s development of the circular economy and other ongoing programs and strategies also play a key role in this transformation of environmental practices. The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan is one of the city’s most important environmental protection measures. In addition, Helsinki implements GCA goals through its Baltic Sea Challenge Action Plan, the Small Waterways Programme and the Air Protection Plan. Other programmes include the Noise Abatement Plan, the Circular and Shared Economy Roadmap, as well as two programmes that are still being prepared: the Litter Control Programme and the Action Plan for Securing Biodiversity.
The manner in which residents live, go to work or school and spend their free time affects both the environment and people’s well-being. For this reason, city planning has a fundamental role to play in the success of efforts to promote ecological sustainability and well-being. Land use planning has a direct impact on traffic emissions, and so Helsinki is focusing its new construction near railway connections to encourage more walking, cycling and railway use. Helsinki promotes low-emission construction, renewable energy production and energy efficiency. Planning also considers future challenges such as the management of stormwater. Green efficiency brings natural touches to the built environment and makes it more pleasant.
GCA goals are also reflected in Helsinki’s waste and water management. The strategic goal of the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) is to be a pioneer in the areas of environmental responsibility and resource efficiency. Significant goals have once again been set for increasing the recycling and recovery rate of waste, materials and nutrients.
Eurasian pygmy owl in Bruksviken East Helsinki, picture taken in autumn 2020. Photo: City of Helsinki/ Raisa Kyllikki Ranta.
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