Cities are taking a determined stand against climate change, but for good climate policy to take effect, the private sector must be on board. In Vaasa, the local government has a stake in the 140-company strong ‘Energy Vaasa’, and is cooperating with private enterprises to make its ambitious climate targets – becoming carbon neutral by 2035 – become a reality.
Under the auspice of the Covenant of Mayors, the two cities have thus been joined in a twinning exercise which allowed representatives from Ghent to visit Vaasa, and will facilitate a reciprocal visit of Vaasa to Ghent in Spring 2019. The cities shared their insights in an open expression of the cross-border urban solidarity that is an essential factor in the fight to control our climate.
For all its cross boarder knowledge sharing, Vaasa remains embedded in its Finish context, and the attendance of neighbouring municipalities at Ghent’s presentation was a testament to the Finish city’s embeddedness in its local ecosystem – another essential factor for successful climate policy.
Education, education, education
Representatives from Ghent heard about the strong collaboration between Vaasa and its university, teaming up with researchers to develop its smart city strategy, local energy solutions and citizen engagement. As well as being a source of innovation and expertise, the university provides Vaasa with a gateway to over 300 national and international businesses and public organisations that participate in the University of Vaasa’s research.
Education goes both ways, and Vaasa also cooperates with its primary schools to help children learn about circular economy, and how their bio-waste is used to fuel the local bus system. It’s due to these successes and more that Vaasa can call itself the Nordic Energy Capital.
Ghent presented its own strategy to become a climate neutral city by 2050, and the deeply social approach that it is taking towards this goal. Through providing zero-interest loans and working together with non-profits, Ghent is making energy poverty a priority; by empowering climate ambassadors, Ghent helps to spark bottom up solutions on a neighbourhood level; and actions like increasing sustainable mobility always come hand in hand with placemaking and improving liveability for residents.
This set of priorities comes through in Ghent’s approach to building retrofit. Convincing private citizens to take up progressive energy measures by retrofitting their homes is not always an easy task; residents are concerned about extra costs, and fail to see the part their own little home plays in Europe and the world’s wider carbon outputs. Bringing them on board means showing them the personal benefit, in terms of savings and comfort, that they can derive from retrofitting their homes – as well as fostering a wider culture of climate awareness.
Ghent and Vaasa are proud signatories of the Covenant of Mayors 2020, and Ghent has already take the further step of signing up to the Covenant of Mayors 2030 targets.
Interested in joining the twinning adventure?
The EU Covenant of Mayors Office will launch its next call for participation to twinning exchanges at the end of June 2018, on https://www.covenantofmayors.eu/. Keep posted!