Espoo takes the effects of climate change into consideration

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2018-10-03 Saara Olsen

The people in Espoo certainly noticed the 2018 summer heatwave. Although the hot weather meant excellent opportunities for swimming, many people also found it hard to bear and identified with the lyrics of an old hit song: “Hot town, summer in the city / back of my neck getting dirty and gritty. / Been down, isn’t it a pity / doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city. / All around, people looking half dead / walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head.”
The heat of a single summer cannot be directly attributed to climate change. Similar heatwaves and other extreme weather events will nonetheless become more common as climate change proceeds. Even though individual weather phenomena cannot be reliably predicted far into the future, it is possible to anticipate long-term changes in climate. The City of Espoo takes these changes into account, actively mitigates climate change and prepares to adapt to the upcoming changes.

Climate change mitigation is an everyday effort in Espoo. Many Espoo residents have adopted more climate-friendly everyday routines, and the city itself is aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Despite all efforts, the climate will inevitably change over the coming decades. The latest research has shown that climate change for example affects air currents in the atmosphere, increasing extreme weather events such as heatwaves. In addition to heat, we can also expect more rainfall particularly in the winter. As winters become warmer and rainier, snow covers and ground frost will become rarer which for example affects soil bearing capacity. Furthermore, stronger storms are expected particularly in sea areas.

Climate change adaptation is an umbrella term for various actions to prepare for and adapt to the consequences of climate change. It can also be understood to include actions that enable us to benefit from the changing climate conditions. An example of the latter is the reduced need for heating as winters grow warmer, which in turn reduces energy consumption costs.

The City of Espoo has already taken the effects of climate change into consideration. For example, the city has a stormwater management programme (in Finnish only), it has recognised social groups vulnerable to climate change and taken account of the expected changes in the latest component master plans (for example at Finnoo). Furthermore, Espoo is one of the participants of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and currently preparing its own comprehensive climate change adaptation action plan. Espoo-based schools will also use amobile adventure game on climate change, to be launched later in the autumn.

An example of adaptation measures already implemented in Espoo is the flood protection of the Kirkkojärvenpuisto park, improving flood control on the Espoonjoki river. In recent years, heavy spring rainfall has sometimes caused the river to flood walkways in the park, making the them inaccessible. The city has appointed a working group to plan flood control measures, such as raised walkways and pump stations. The measures will be scaled to accommodate increasing rainfall caused by climate change.

Plot owners can also adapt to the changing climate by turning to the Marketanpuisto Stormwater Centre (in Finnish only) for advice. Marketanpuisto is involved in the Tekes StormFilter project that aims to improve stormwater management in urban environments by use of wetlands and swales. In other words, it is possible to adapt private plots and gardens to the changing climate.
Although climate change adaptation is already visible in Espoo in many ways, benefiting from the latest research-based knowledge and maintaining excellent cooperation are keys to successful climate efforts.  As we are moving towards a carbon-neutral Espoo, we are also ensuring its climate sustainability.

This post was written by Saara, who works at the Espoo Environment Department as a limnologist and expert in adapting to climate change.