Review of the Sustainable Espoo Programme 2017–2021

  • City of Espoo
8.3.2021 8.41Updated: 29.10.2021 7.32

The Sustainable Espoo programme is one of the city’s four cross-administrative development programmes. At the heart of it all, is the Espoo Story – the city’s strategy – which has been approved by the city’s highest decision-makers, i.e. the members of the City Council. The development programmes support the implementation of the city strategy.

Sustainable development is a term that was reportedly used for the first time by the UN Brundtland Commission in 1987. Very few people today could claim never to have heard the term, but at times, it might be a good idea to consider what sustainable development really means to me, to you or to all of us.

More than thirty years ago, the Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as a continuous and guided social change aimed at enabling a good life for the current and future generations. The idea of sustainable development is that we must share our common resources so that we and our children and grandchildren and their children have a chance to lead a good life. This, of course, raises the question of what constitutes a good life and how do we enable it.

Espoo’s sustainable development work has started to pursue the enablers of good life through smart urban solutions, smooth and versatile mobility, emission-free energy production, responsible operations of the residents of Espoo and the surrounding environment. The idea is to join forces to create a functional, safe and comfortable daily life. The goal is nothing less than making the City of Espoo carbon-neutral by the year 2030.

The Sustainable Espoo programme has worked to enable the people living, working and spending their leisure time in Espoo to lead a lifestyle that suits them in such a way that a good life is possible for future generation as well. But what has happened in concrete terms? What progress has actually been made?

One of the flagships of the Sustainable Espoo programme is the development of the Kera area. Kera is a former logistics area along the railway, which by 2030 will be home to 14,000 residents and 10,000 jobs. Together with various companies, research institutes and other actors, the Smart and Clean Kera project has created new approaches that will help Kera become a carbon-neutral area and an international example of circular economy. The aim is to create an area allowing for a good and sustainable lifestyle.

Smooth mobility is one of the prerequisites of a good life: we want to move as comfortably and smoothly as possible to our work, hobbies and friends and family. COVID-19 has forced us to reduce the number of trips we make, and it is likely that when we get through the crisis, we will be have adopted a more critical attitude towards some of our mobility needs than we had before the pandemic. Instead of physically moving to another location, we will probably have remote meetings, order products home and have a remote appointment with the doctor. When the restrictions caused by COVID-19 are lifted, it will be interesting to see which trips are the ones we want to make again. What kind of mobility do we consider a part of a good life?

The considerable progress made in the field of electronic mobility during the programming period is good news. There are currently 25 electric buses operating in Espoo, and the number of charging points for electric cars has increased significantly.

The role of energy in leading a good life becomes obvious on freezing winter’s day. We Finns are used to heating our homes relatively easily and inexpensively. Heating is responsible for a significant part of the greenhouse gas emissions of Finns. I am, therefore, happy to relate that Espoo uses the highest share of renewable energy sources in the production of district heating in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Coal will be completely abandoned in the production of district heating in 2025.

During the Sustainable Espoo programme period, measures have been introduced to enable each of us to act responsibly. The goal is to create a city where nothing is thrown away, but materials continue to circulate either to serve a new purpose or at least as energy. This is a line of thinking we learnt from our grandparents, who lived through the war, and it is called circular economy. Throughout the programme, we have piloted new circular economy solutions: reducing food waste, using smart lockers as exchange points for goods, sharing commodities in apartment buildings, sharing commodities and facilities in neighbourhoods, joint use of vehicles in neighbourhoods, renting out city-owned consumables for the use of residents, and joint waste collection in detached house areas are all solutions that would have won at least my grandmother’s approval.

In Sustainable Espoo, diverse nature and environment promote the residents’ well-being. During the COVID-19 pandemic, local nature has increased in importance beyond all recognition. Social media updates clearly reflect this: pictures from exotic vacations have been replaced by images of campfires, skiing tracks and nearby hiking trails.

The Sustainable Espoo programme will also continue during the next council term. One of the strong points of the programme is the fact that its activities have been carried out in cooperation. The work has been guided by a steering group consisting of trustees and officials, and it has been carried out in cooperation with numerous companies, public sector actors and research institutes. As is true for all human activity, the cooperation has not always been a bed of roses, but it certainly has blossomed. When the goal is enabling good life, taking into account all aspects of sustainable development, it is essential that cooperation is carried out in a broad sense and with different perspectives in mind.

And now, looking at the final report of the Sustainable Espoo programme, everyone who has contributed to the project, even just a little bit, can feel incredibly proud. Working on sustainable development has definitely been a part of good life!

  • Sustainability