In the recent months, we have heard increasingly urgent calls that we have reached a “point of no return” when it comes to the fight against climate change. Decarbonising our energy network is a matter of top priority. Whilst there are some who continue to postpone this all-important change, there are others who have decided to start immediately. The city of Helsinki belongs to the latter category. It has launched an international competition and an ambitious programme to try to a trailblazer in the transition to a green city that is more sustainable and more liveable.
Much of the credit for these theoretical and practical innovations goes to Jan Vapaavuori, the major of the Finnish capital, who has already made headlines in the first part of his term of office for reaching some big targets. The construction of the new Oodi central library, a unique building that has given the city a new first-class cultural centre and which has seen cultural expenditure become the second largest spend in the municipal budget, was due to his determination to get the job done. Having recognised that "cities have a key role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy", Vapaavuori and his team have launched an international competition called the Helsinki Energy Challenge. The aim of this worthy initiative is to bring together every innovative proposal to develop sustainable urban heating solutions, for a city that still gets more than half of its energy needs from coal. And to incentivise companies, research groups, foundations, universities and other bodies to submit proposals, a 1 million euro prize is to be awarded to the most innovative and workable project.