Municipal climate plans should keep the bar high

News 2023-12-08 at 15:58

Maarit Virtanen from the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme assists municipalities in preparing climate plans. The new government's decision to withdraw the binding nature of the plans does not eliminate the need and motivation of municipalities to react to climate change.

“Climate issues often require reminders and continuous visibility. I try to ask municipalities at the right times about how climate impacts could be taken into account,” says Maarit Virtanen.

According to Virtanen, her role is to act as a reminder for municipalities. Maarit Virtanen works as an energy and climate expert in the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme and has been involved in the Canemure project as a regional coordinator almost from the beginning.

Virtanen has coordinated the preparation of the Päijät-Häme climate road map. This autumn, she will start drafting climate plans with seven municipalities in Päijät-Häme. The municipalities are part of a wider group of municipalities that applied for and received financial support from the Ministry of the Environment for the preparation of climate plans. The completed plans will be approved by the municipal councils by March 2025.

Municipalities looking for new measures to reduce emissions

In the climate plan, the municipality names the measures by which it commits to curbing its emissions. According to Virtanen, many municipalities have already been able to take the so-called easy and large measures. In the future, emission reductions may consist of several smaller actions. For example, a municipality may strive to enable its residents to live a sustainable lifestyle.

“Municipalities cannot tackle all emissions on their own. A municipality is made up of residents who make different choices in their everyday life. Some municipalities communicate about sustainable choices to their residents, but this could also be done through cooperation between several municipalities."

Climate plans often name improving something that already exists as a measure. Virtanen encourages municipalities to also take completely new measures and precisely define how the selected measures are reflected in practice.

“Let's say that the municipality chooses the promotion of sustainable transport as a measure. Does the measure really matter on a practical level, or is it just rhetoric? How can the promotion of sustainable transport be seen in decision-making and situations where choices are made?"

With the legislative amendment, climate plans will again be made voluntary

In March 2023, an amendment to the Climate Act entered into force, which included an obligation for municipalities to prepare climate plans. The government programme of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, published in June, stated that the obligation recently imposed on municipalities will be cancelled by a legislative amendment.

According to Virtanen, the cancellation of the binding nature of climate plans is a pity, especially for small municipalities. Obligation would have meant that municipalities would have received support in the preparation and updating of climate plans in the future as well. According to Virtanen, however, the change in the law does not affect the will of municipalities.

“So far, I have not heard anyone say that they are backing away from climate plans. Municipalities understand that climate change requires a response.”

The seven municipalities in Päijät-Häme are still planning to draw up their climate plans. Virtanen says that, in general, she hopes municipalities will dare to set the bar high for climate plan targets. A sufficiently ambitious target will trigger measures. Even if the municipality does not achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, a lot of good will have been achieved in its pursuit.

Hiilineutraalisuomi_ilmastosuunnitelmat_Maarit Virtanen_puolikuva_uutinen_20230928
Maarit Virtanen works as an energy and climate expert and project manager in the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme. Virtanen is happy to exchange thoughts and ideas with operators interested in municipal climate work. © Maarit Virtanen


  • Print page