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Elise Ruohonen

Urban planning is at the heart of the green transition

transport green transition urban planning climate change land use biodiversity

The green transition affects us all and plays a key role in Finland’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The green transition requires not only the energy transition and the phasing out of fossil fuels, but also the sustainable use of natural resources. Sustainable urban planning influences, for example, urban land use, the location of activities and space needs, mobility habits, the use of natural resources and material flows.

According to a recent survey by Sweco, half of Finns feel that the green transition is necessary for Finnish society, but only a quarter are confident that it will be realised. And although the majority of Finns – as many as 79 per cent – are confident in their own ability to adapt to new situations, only 44 per cent felt that their place of residence is resilient to social crises.

Urban planning plays a key role in building a more sustainable society. The planning of sustainable and pleasant urban environments prepares for the impacts of climate change and takes into account the challenges of population growth. According to forecasts, as many as 79 per cent of Finns will live in cities in 2050, which further emphasises the need to create safer living environments prepared for extreme weather phenomena.

Nature-based solutions increase resilience

According to a recent World Economic Forum risk report, extreme weather events will be the world’s biggest threat over the next decade. As a result of climate change, heavy rainfall and floods will become more frequent. In cities, the problem is manyfold due to impermeable asphalt surfaces, dense construction, and a lack of water-retaining green spaces. For example, in southwest Germany, the cost of repairing roads and railways destroyed in the 2021 storm reached two billion euros, and the price tag is still being counted for the damage caused by heavy rainfall in autumn 2023 in Norway and Sweden.

In addition to asphalt surfaces, it is possible to design nature-based solutions, such as green spaces, that provide significant economic and sustainability benefits. Improving air quality, managing rainwater, designing shade and bringing cooling during hot spells, supporting biodiversity, increasing the number of recreational places for residents and improving mental well-being are examples of the benefits of nature-based solutions that also save costs for society. These solutions are also in line with the EU taxonomy, i.e. the classification system for sustainable finance.

Transforming society together

The green transition will be implemented at every level: by the state, municipalities, companies and private choices. We in the design and consultancy sector work to drive the green transition. In addition to one’s own private choices, it is possible to make a difference, for example, by choosing a field of education that can contribute to the green transition. In this way, the green transition will also come closer to everyone’s everyday life and inspire them to participate in its promotion. At Sweco, you can, for example, work on projects that affect society and the built environment for decades to come.

We now have a place to send a positive message to Finns: we can influence the green transition together, at every level of society.

At the same time as we phase out fossil fuels and preserve biodiversity, we create new jobs and improve the self-sufficiency and crisis resilience of communities. In the best case, we do it in such a way that everyone feels that they can influence this necessary change.

Elise Ruohonen, Business Unit Director, Infrastructure and Transport