Lappeenranta has made it to the final in the international Earth Hour City Challenge organised by the World Wildlife Fund and designed to encourage cities in their work in preventing climate change. Organised for the sixth time, the challenge measures the cities' preparedness to reduce greenhouse emissions produced in energy production and traffic and through food choices. The last time Lappeenranta made it to the final was in 2014.
A total of 124 cities from 20 countries participated in WWF's Earth Hour City Challenge 2016, and 45 cities were selected for the final. The international jury was particularly impressed by Lappeenranta's efforts to make the city waste-free and carbon-neutral by 2050.
The development has been promising, as Lappeenranta has already reduced its emissions by 38% from 1990 levels. The next step is to reduce the emissions by 80% from the 2007 level by 2030, in accordance with the HINKU network of carbon neutral municipalities.
According to Liisa Rohweder, Secretary General of WWF Finland, the cities' contribution is essential, as more than 70% of global emissions is produced by cities.
"Lappeenranta has set consistent, long-term goals and has already shown that it is prepared to achieve those goals on time. Smooth cooperation with the residents, local businesses and universities has been one of the keys to success, as everyone's contribution is important," Ms Rohweder says.
One of the ways in which Lappeenranta has reduced its emissions is by increasing the percentage of energy produced from renewable sources to 78. Lappeenranta produces the largest amount of solar electricity per resident of any city in Finland. The city's solid expertise in energy issues is supported by Lappeenranta University of Technology, where the search for new solutions to climate change mitigation continues. In 2013, the University received an international Sustainable Campus Excellence Award for its concrete efforts to promote clean technology.
Ilkka Räsänen, Director of Lappeenranta Region Environmental Office, talks about the many methods used in Lappeenranta to produce renewable energy.
"Our methods range from heat pumps to large energy production plants. In the Lappeenranta suburb of Joutseno, we use hydrogen to produce district heating, and the number of solar panels in domestic use is on the increase. Lappeenranta and all of South Karelia have the opportunity to become a model region for renewable energy in Finland," Mr Räsänen believes.
People vote for their favourite
In addition to the winner selected by an external jury, one city receives a People's Choice Award. People can have their say by voting, proposing improvements, or using the city's hashtag #welovelappeenranta in the social media.
Votes and proposals can be submitted at www.welovecities.org. The public vote is open from 26 April to 19 June. Last year, more than 335,000 votes were submitted. Finnish candidates then were Lahti, Tampere, and Espoo; the winner was Seoul in South Korea. This year, the only Finnish candidate is Lappeenranta.
WWF's Earth Hour City Challenge is part of the world's largest climate event, WWF's Earth Hour, which takes place on Saturday 19 March. The lights are being switched off at 20:30–21:30 to show concern for climate change. Lappeenranta Region Environmental Office invites all businesses, communities, and residents of Lappeenranta to join the campaign.
General Secretary Liisa Rohweder, WWF Finland, tel. +358 (0)40 840 7461,
Project Officer Jere Lehtomaa, WWF, tel. +358 (0)400 422 659,
Director Ilkka Räsänen, Lappeenranta Region Environmental Office, tel. +358 (0)400 815 284,