Cities are bolstering their climate leadership in Finland — European Green Capital Lahti leads the way in achieving carbon neutrality - Lahti

Cities are bolstering their climate leadership in Finland — European Green Capital Lahti leads the way in achieving carbon neutrality

Climate leadership is an emerging aspect of leadership. Lahti, the European Green Capital in Finland, has a difficult background but aims to be carbon neutral through climate leadership as early as 2025, ten years ahead of Finland’s national target. The efforts are boosted by a joint climate leadership training initiative by Finnish municipalities.

Located in Southern Finland, Lahti, the European Green Capital 2021, suffers from a low education level and structural unemployment. Despite these difficulties, Lahti is a leader in Finland and Europe on environmental and climate issues.

– Our mayor, Pekka Timonen, likes to say that if something can be achieved in Lahti, it’s possible anywhere. Lahti has taken a bold stance to climate leadership. The pandemic has taken a toll on the city’s finances, but we’re looking far into the future. Only a sustainable city can be a dynamic one, says Elina Ojala, Environment Director of Lahti.

Climate leadership faces high expectations across Finland. Municipalities see it as a solution to the climate crisis while increasing vitality and competitiveness, save costs and generate resource efficiency. The key is to understand how climate issues cut across all aspects of society: everything must be looked at from the perspective of climate. A good example is the school meal, which all schoolchildren in Finland receive free of charge.

– Organising school meals may not sound like climate work, but the sustainability of the food supply chain has immense potential for the climate, and the volume of public purchases is huge. By making smart choices, we get the most benefit out of them. Particularly on the national scale, details such as logistics, the proportion of organic food, waste sorting and recycling of food waste also have a big impact, says Ojala.

Finnish municipalities push each other in climate leadership training

The City of Lahti is involved in a climate leadership training initiative together with 12 other Finnish municipalities. The training involves political leaders and top officials as well as climate experts.

– We came up with the concept of climate leadership training with the City of Lahti. The goal is to improve the municipality’s capacity to respond to climate change and the ability of the municipal government to carry out climate leadership. Our participation in Lahti’s European Green Capital programme also enables us to learn from other cities around Europe, says the initiative’s Project Manager, Pauliina Jalonen from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

– Cities are working to solve the climate crisis globally. By cooperating in climate leadership, municipalities are able to learn from others, discuss the best solutions and achieve the greatest impacts. It is essential that cities share their best practices both within countries and internationally. With so little time left for climate action, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel, says Ojala.

The European Green Capital competition encourages action and sharing of information

This week, the eyes of climate decision-makers in cities around Europe will be on Lahti as the European Green Capital for 2023 is selected. The winner of the European Commission’s Green Capital competition is a city that has developed innovative solutions to climate challenges and serves as an example and inspiration to other cities. The aim of the competition is to both inspire cities to climate and environmental action as well as promote the sharing of information among European cities.

As this year’s Green Capital, Lahti has the honour to host the award ceremony at the Sibelius Hall on 9 September 2021. The finalist cities will present their environmental work to an international jury in Lahti on Wednesday and Thursday, after which the jury selects the winners.

The event both celebrates the new European Green Capital and helps strengthen cooperation between cities. For Lahti, the arrival of international dignitaries is an excellent opportunity to share experiences about environmental solutions adopted by the city.

More information

Elina Ojala
Environmental Director, City of Lahti
tel. +358444826376,

Pauliina Jalonen
Project Manager, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities
tel. +358 50 501 8602,