Lahti: the European Green Capital 2021

Henna Virkkunen (FI, EPP), Miapetra Kumpula-Natri (FI, S&D), Elsi Katainen (FI, RE) and Ville Niinistö (FI, Greens/EFA) share their views on this year's European Green Capital, the Finnish city of Lahti.

A well-earned title

Cities like Lahti are the drivers of change we need in the transition to a more sustainable world, writes Henna Virkkunen (FI, EPP)

As the first city from Finland to be crowned European Green Capital, Lahti has certainly earned its accolade. Cities such as Lahti are drivers of change that are leading by example. I see the commitment of local industries, companies and citizens as key to our sustainable transformation. Lahti has successfully managed to engage many actors in waste management, mobility planning, eco-innovation and much more, with lasting results. The question now is how to scale up best practices.

Finland has set an extremely ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. This may seem a long way o‑, but the investments made today will determine how we produce energy, travel and manage our waste in the future. To successfully advance the Green Deal agenda, we need long-term planning and a stable policy framework at European level. Regulatory certainty is a precondition for finding the most efficient pathways for climate neutrality.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that significant change is possible, and that our societies and industries can adapt quickly when needed. This strengthens our drive to deliver on the Green Deal, which - if implemented consistently - will bring sustainable growth. The national recovery plans are a unique opportunity to boost existing sustainable solutions and encourage innovation towards climate neutrality.


Think global, act local

Climate change waits for no one; lahti can help to show that we can act now to combat it, argues Miapetra Kumpula-Natri (FI, S&D)

Climate change will not wait for us to solve the COVID-19 pandemic, nor to arrive at a perfect economic situation; concrete measures are needed now and at every level. This is why the European Green Deal, together with a green sustainable recovery, must be far reaching.

We need common, global goals and more concrete national plans. We also need more energy-efficient buildings, better planning for sustainable mobility, more charging points for electric cars, less CO2-emitting heating, better and more efficient recycling, and real action to reduce food waste - these are steps that can only be taken at local level. The City of Lahti, the 2021 European Green Capital, is leading by example. It aims to become a carbon-neutral city by 2025 and has already cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The city has abandoned the use of coal and is now heated using recycled fuel. Lahti also uses personal mobility emissions trading for citizens - the first city in the world to do so. Lahti, known for winter sports, also fights global warming because skiing without snow is not so pleasant. We need pioneers, like Lahti, to make the green revolution happen.


Inspiring climate action

Cities across Europe can learn valuable lessons from Lahti on how to transition to sustainability, says Elsi Katainen (FI, RE)

As a Finnish MEP, I am proud that the City of Lahti is the European Green Capital this year. There are many reasons for this, and I think it’s important that forerunners are incentivised. For instance, Lahti aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. This is ten years ahead of Finland, which is aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2035.

Lahti’s environmental know-how is well known in Brussels as they have showcased their pioneering solutions in the fields of water management and circular economy in recent years. Tangible climate and environmental action takes place in cities, regions and rural areas, which are interconnected. Therefore, it is increasingly important that the EU recognises this and supports cities and regions in their climate and environmental action through funding and other means of assistance.

Multi-level governance is a key factor as we need to engage more with cities and regions to deliver the objectives of the European Green Deal and to recover from the disruption caused by COVID-19, where practical and efficient implementation is of the utmost importance for local businesses. I sincerely hope that Lahti’s Green Capital year will inspire other cities and regions across Europe and beyond to join the climate and environmental movement.


Why we need trailblazers

Lahti shows that the European Green Deal goals can be achieved if there is a willingness to do so, writes Ville Niinistö (FI, Greens/EFA)

In the European Parliament, we MEPs deal with high-level issues and goals, but in the end cities, companies and citizens are the ones making the change. Globally, 70 percent of our CO2 emissions come from cities, so we need frontrunners to showcase solutions and willingness to change. Lahti aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, Finland by 2035 and the EU by 2050 - all are important goals in fighting climate change.

I am delighted that the Finnish city of Lahti was chosen as European Green Capital for 2021. Lahti shows that cities can become greener if the will is there. This is done through strong cooperation between universities, companies and citizens. For example, Lahti has put in place a personal emissions trading scheme, and is trying to make it easier for citizens to cut emissions and be carbon neutral by improving active transportation.

For years, Lahti has been moving towards a circular economy, improving its waste management, supporting local solution providers and helping businesses transition. The Green Deal can be achieved anywhere. Today, cities have an excellent opportunity, with the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to set a green path. Business as usual is no longer an option.

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