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New study: The Hinku network has a positive impact on municipal climate work

News 2020-12-21 at 9:47
© Bruno Figueiredo / Unsplash

Joining the Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Hinku) network has lowered the climate emissions of municipalities. The majority of Hinku municipalities also feel that joining the network has improved the effectiveness of climate work, a study by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) finds.

According to the study, the climate emissions of municipalities that belong to the Hinku network are 3.1 per cent lower than they would be without the network. Other factors that affect emissions, such as infrastructure, demographics and weather conditions, have been taken into account in the study to prevent them from skewing the results.

The Hinku network, established in 2008, is a network of municipalities that are pioneering in climate change mitigation. The goal of the Hinku municipalities is to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from the 2007 levels by 2030.

“The Hinku network has improved municipal climate work and set us on the right track. However, joining the Hinku network doesn’t solve everything. Reducing emissions takes hard work. Half of the municipalities found the expert support received through the network valuable. The network has also provided peer support, motivation, inspiration, media visibility and support for communications,” says Laura Saikku, Senior Research Scientist at SYKE.

There are significant differences in the planning and implementation of climate work between municipalities. “Our study shows that an above average economic situation promotes emission reductions in Hinku municipalities as well as other municipalities. The Hinku network allows municipalities to receive highly refined information about measures for reducing emissions. These measures might otherwise not have been implemented due to a lack of resources,” says Santtu Karhinen, researcher at SYKE.

Municipalities find the Hinku network effective

Most (80%) of the interviewed representatives of Hinku municipalities found that joining the Hinku network has had an impact on municipal climate work. According to the interviewees, joining the network has promoted concrete measures for reducing emissions in about 60 per cent of the municipalities.

The representatives of Hinku municipalities highlighted measures related to energy production, energy efficiency in buildings, transport and the increase of solar power as the most important measures taken to reduce emissions. According to statistical analysis, joining the Hinku network has reduced emissions quite evenly across different emission sectors. Joining the Hinku network has had a significant impact on, for example, emissions from the use of electricity.

In many municipalities, joining the Hinku network has encouraged cooperation across different sectors and strengthened the municipality’s resolve to implement the measures. The network may also have influenced the municipality’s decision-making or atmosphere. Being able to refer to the Hinku membership as grounds for taking action has helped advance internal climate measures within municipalities.

Challenges and solutions in climate work

Despite the positive impact of the network, even a large portion of municipalities in pioneer networks like Hinku face various challenges, such a lack of resources. Municipalities also struggle with limited influence, particularly with regard to the emissions of citizens and companies in the municipality. However, the Hinku municipalities have managed to find good solutions to many common challenges in municipal climate work.

“Our study shows that the municipalities that have had the most success with their climate work are the ones that have made climate work a direct part of their municipal strategy and implemented it across all sectors as part of their operations. The commitment of the municipal administration, the activity of the personnel and allotting sufficient resources for the work also play a key role. Experiences of success have also come from engaging many different actors in climate work,” says Venla Riekkinen, Coordinator at SYKE.

“The Hinku network finds itself in new circumstances due to its rapid expansion in recent years. There are already 73 municipalities participating. This study will be helpful when developing new operating models for the network,” says Professor Jyri Seppälä, the National Director of the Hinku network, from the Finnish Environment Institute.

The Finnish Environment Institute investigated the Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Hinku) network’s impact on municipal emissions and measures for mitigating climate change. The study is based on interviews carried out in 2019 with forty municipalities that joined the Hinku network in 2008–2018 and a statistical modelling of the connection between Hinku membership and the municipalities’ emission trends. The statistical model included all 38 municipalities that joined the Hinku network before 2018. The study was carried out as part of the Canemure (Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities and Regions) project coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute and funded by the EU Life programme.

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