Helsinki’s CO2 emissions decreased at a record pace

Helsinki’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased at a record pace last year, with the exception of traffic.

Helsinki’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 has proceeded significantly with the decommissioning of the Hanasaari coal-fired power plant. In 2023, emissions from district heating in Helsinki decreased 35 per cent year-on-year, which is a new record. Emissions from electricity consumption also decreased by 23 per cent.

The City’s energy company Helen Ltd was able to shut down its power plant in Hanasaari due to its sizable investments in low-emission energy production. In addition to the discontinuation of the Hanasaari power plant, the decrease in emissions was partly explained by the stabilisation of the effects of the war in Ukraine.

The year 2022 was an exceptional one due to the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis, when the city’s energy company Helen suddenly had to replace natural gas with coal, oil, and pellets, which increased Helsinki’s total emissions. Now emissions are once again on a clearly downward path, says Hanna Wesslin, Climate Director at the City of Helsinki.

In 2023, Helsinki’s total CO2 emissions were 25.4 per cent lower than in 2022. Per capita emissions decreased by 27 per cent year-on-year. Helsinki’s population growth explains the differences between total and per capita emissions.

Helsinki’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased significantly in a short period of time, even when the exceptional emissions situation of 2022 is taken into account. From 2021 to 2023, total emissions decreased by 17 per cent.

Helsinki’s total CO2 emissions have now decreased by 45 per cent from the reference year 1990. Per capita emissions have decreased by 60 per cent over the same period. Emissions are now at the lowest level since the 1990 reference year.

By 2030, Helsinki aims to achieve a 100 per cent reduction in emissions compared to the reference year; if necessary, by using emission compensation measures.

Heating is still the most significant source of direct emissions in Helsinki, and electricity is the third largest. According to forecasts, the situation is changing: traffic will become the largest source of emissions in Helsinki in 2025. In 2022–2023, traffic emissions decreased by five per cent.

Starting next year, more than half of the direct emissions in the Helsinki area will come from traffic, while the other major emissions sources will continue to decrease. In other words, emissions reductions in traffic will have a critical impact on how Helsinki achieves its climate targets, says Wesslin.

As part of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki programme, we are currently investigating what kinds of traffic reforms could be implemented in Helsinki in order to reduce traffic emissions faster than at present. The Helsinki Urban Environment committee will discuss the results of the analysis in the autumn.

Helsinki took many steps to reduce its traffic emissions in 2023. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) achieved its target of 30 per cent electrification of the bus fleet ahead of schedule, and the new high-speed tram Raide-Jokeri started operating. A record number of tramway projects are being planned – over the next ten years, more than 30 kilometres of new tramway will operate in Helsinki.

The share of electric cars has also increased significantly in Helsinki. In 2023, the share of rechargeable cars was approximately 16.7 per cent of all cars actively in traffic, compared to 3.4 per cent in 2020.

Tags: CO2 Emissions, Energy, Helsinki
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