Research has much to offer for climate policy and solutions

News 2021-10-27 at 13:56

Research should play an important role when decision makers plan ambitious climate policy. This article summarizes the main findings of 9 recent SYKE reports addressing climate change and solutions.

Municipalities – small on size, huge on impact

Municipalities are key players in mitigating climate change. They can cut their own emissions but also promote good practices and show the way for other actors to mitigate climate change.

Cooperation helps municipalities in their climate work, shows an example from Hinku network. The Finnish municipalities who have joined Hinku network have promised to lower their emissions by 80% by 2030 compared to 2007 levels. The results show that there is a significant link between municipality’s greenhouse gas emissions and Hinku membership: on average members’ emissions are 3,1% lower than those of non-members.

The report in Finnish: Kohti hiilineutraalia kuntaa: ilmastoverkoston vaikutus kunnan ilmastotyöhön ja päästöihin 

One concrete way municipalities and other actors can mitigate climate change is by promoting a carbon-neutral circular economy in public procurement. This happens most efficiently when goals for low-carbon and circular economy are set at the earliest stage of the procurement process. It is important to increase the understanding of life-cycle point of view among municipal decision-makers and officials. Their support and commitment to sustainability goals at all stages of projects are of paramount importance.

The report: Vähähiilisyys ja kiertotalous julkisissa hankinnoissa - Kiihdyttämö –hankkeen tulokset, opit ja kokemukset

Nature and climate are inseparable

Nature conservation should be executed climate-smartly. This requires knowledge about how species, their populations and habitat types react to climate change and ability to identify which species and habitat types are most vulnerable to climate change. The key to climate-smart conservation planning is understanding where climate is changing most rapidly and which conservation areas, species, populations, and habitats are most susceptible to projected changes and how to adapt to them.

Climate-smart conservation involves multiple actions, for example: 1) developing a comprehensive network of protected areas across climatic zone 2) supporting species movement to new areas by actions on outside protected areas 3) emphasizing the flexible planning of protection and management and preparing for large changes in the environmental change 4) supporting movement of dispersal of species by allocating ecological restoration and management 5) protecting the species whose success depends on the most rapidly climate variables 6) combining carbon budget estimates with spatially explicit data on biodiversity.

The reports in Finnish: Lajit ja luontotyypit muuttuvassa ilmastossa and Suojelualueverkosto muuttuvassa ilmastossa - kohti ilmastoviisasta suojelualuesuunnittelua

Methods and tools at the heart of decision making

Different methods and tools should be used to calculate and forecast the climate impacts of products, actions or sectors. SYKE has produced several methods and tools to help in this task, for example, Ecodesign, the new Regional Calculation Model (ALas) and the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

Ecodesign is a design and management method that integrates environmental issues in product development. It can proactively reduce, avoid, or eliminate adverse environmental impacts that may occur at different stages of life cycle. Ecodesign enables public sector to support companies to create a responsible innovation culture, generate an open operating environment, reduce the environmental impact, generate environmental benefits, and support systemic change.

The report in Finnish: Ekodesign – tiekartta julkishallinnolle ja yrityksille

ALas is a new calculation model intended for calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of municipalities and regions. The Alas calculation model is important since annual monitoring of emissions is one of the primary tools in seeking carbon neutrality in municipalities and regions. The default calculation model intended for monitoring municipalities’ emission goals is called Hinku calculation.

The report: Suomen kuntien kasvihuonekaasupäästöjen laskenta. ALas-mallin menetelmäkuvaus ja laskentojen tuloksia 2005–2018 

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is used to assess the environmental impacts of products over the course of their life cycle. It takes into consideration sixteen environmental impact classes. PEF can be used to support environmentally friendly procurement, but concrete guidance or practical experience does not yet exist.

The report: Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method - Use for evaluating the climate impacts of public procurement

Professional kitchens and housing companies as an example

Professional kitchens can be made more climate friendly with energy efficiency improvements and a transition to refrigerants with a low global warming potential. To pave the way to more climate friendly professional kitchens SYKE recommends comprehensive energy engineering design in professional kitchen installations and integration of kitchen and building technology design. Natural refrigerants should be used in the kitchen equipment whenever possible and the excess heat from the refrigeration equipment should be used to the needs of the building by using waterloop technology.

The report in Finnish: Ilmastoystävälliset ammattikeittiöt – keinoina energiatehokkuusparannukset ja luonnolliset kylmäaineet 

Renovation of building stock offers an opportunity to develop decentralized energy production. Housing companies can be important energy producers in the future, but they need help to achieve this. Firstly, reliable information about energy production in housing companies must be compiled in a clear and accessible format and made available to the various actors. Secondly, housing companies need better channels for peer learning and targeted counselling. Thirdly, the market needs stronger signals for the development of the supply of services and the development of new types of comprehensive solutions. Continuation of the state’s energy aids can provide the predictable and continuous guidance needed at the moment. In addition, political will and strategic vision are required to ensure future resources for the development of citizen energy.

The report in Finnish: Taloyhtiöistä tulevaisuuden energiatuottajia – Muutospolut vuoteen 2035 ja murrosareena tiedon yhteistuotannon menetelmänä

Multiple and diverse actions are needed to tackle climate emissions.