The Climate adaptation targets of Lahti are currently under development as part of the Lahti City Strategy Update 2018-2021 and the Lahti Environmental Programme 2030. We are also preparing to join the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, during autumn 2017.
Current adaptation actions taken by Lahti (Table A1) are based on international and national projects that Lahti has participated in. Especially, EU Cities Adapt 2011-2013 created a significant push in strategic thinking, towards a resilient city. Lahti’s main strategic tasks for improving the “adaptive capacity” of our city were then identified as follows:
Preventing the most harmful effects of city floods caused by heavy rains and increasing rain and snow:
We also acknowledged a need to study more closely:
Creating an Innovation Platform: Hybrid Solutions for Treating Urban Storm Water
Finding the best solutions to treat urban storm water is currently high on the city agenda, as the city is preparing a large-scale investment project called “Hybrid Solutions for Urban Storm Water”. This improves 1) the climate resiliency of Lahti City and 2) the water quality of nearby Lake Vesijärvi. The project received a Finnish Government Programme Key Pilot Project status and funding for 2017-2018. The idea is to find both small and large-scale solutions for treating urban storm waters and to combine them into two urban development areas in Lahti (Fig. A5).
Lahti participated in a project called Adaption Strategies for European Cities (EU Cities Adapt) organized by the European Commission, during 2012-2013. The project surveyed a municipality’s adaptive actions and the overall ‘adaptive capacity’ of individual cities, and created a base for adaptation programme planning. Key climate change risks were identified, together with specialists. During the autumn of 2012, a climate change adaptation survey was carried out, within the city organization, covering, e.g. land use, municipal engineering, and Lahti water company Lahti Aqua and energy company Lahti Energy Ltd. A workgroup within the city consortium was established for adaption planning. Additionally, the EU Cities Adapt project used peer-reviewing, as a co-learning instrument, among the different cities.
In 2012, a PACT was produced by project consultant Alexander Ballard Ltd. to assess the organizational capacity of Lahti to respond to climate change effects. At that point, the results were as follows (Fig B1):
In Figure B1:
The dark blue areas represent pathways where Lahti’s current activity, for responding to climate change, is secure at its current response level.Any lighter blue areas show where there is evidence that the city programme is beginning to move to a higher level, but where this progress has not yet been consolidated.The yellow area shows, what the consultant called a ‘transition zone’ - the range of activities across all pathways that the city needs to address in order to bring the programme up to the target level. Lahti should focus its efforts on activities in the transition zone in order to build a strong and integrated programme. Completing work in the transition zone is the route to achieving the immediate performance target, shown below.
An impact and risk assessment was also performed during the EU Climate Adapt project (Table B2). Current actions (Table A1) are based on this analysis.
After EU Climate Adapt, we continued working with climate change adaptation within the ERDF funded national ILKKA project (2012-2014). At that time, we started to draft a climate change adaptation programme for Lahti that focused on areas described in Section 2A. The ILKKA project provided a large number of planning tools, for climate change adaptation, which are currently in use in the urban planning of many cities in Finland, including Lahti.
Urban Ecosystem Approach in the Lahti Adaptation Work
Since early 2000, the City of Lahti has coupled city development work with university research. The University of Helsinki, Department of Environmental Sciences (UH-DES) is largely located in Lahti and is one of the university departments that receives strategic funding from the city. The aim of this co-operation is to increase city resiliency. The department has a strong focus on urban ecology and climate change research questions.
Increasing precipitation that causes, e.g. urban and river flooding, is expected to be one of the most problematic climate change impacts in Northern Europe. The City of Lahti built and studied storm water structures, in new residential areas (Fig. B3), during 2008-2015, using scientific knowledge from UH-DES. According to the research results from these study sites, the storm water systems reduce the speed of water flow, from catchment area to water body, and diminish the leaching of nutrients and heavy metals. This research knowledge and practical expertise can now be further developed and used when building new storm water systems treating the majority of urban storm water in Lahti (Fig. A5).
Cities can greatly benefit from and create a more adaptable infrastructure by using research from ecosystem ecology. The University of Helsinki has also studied green roofs and their impacts on nutrient leaching loss in Northern climates, proving that these are important structures for balancing urban hydrology. Further research is being conducted to find the best green roof solutions, which use more native species, to increase overall urban biodiversity.
Forestry adaptation questions are highly relevant throughout Finland, including Lahti, as the city owns roughly 7 000 hectares of forest. A large part, circa 60%, of the forest consists of approximately 80-year-old spruce, which makes it prone to, e.g. mass colonization by certain damaging insects, such as Ips typographus, which benefit from climate change induced warmer summers and increased wind damage. These are increasingly considered with new forest management practices in Lahti, where a small-scale group selection system is being used for forest regeneration.
Mitigating the Health Risks of Climate Change
As in the Southern Latitudes, climate change poses risks to human health in Northern Europe, although these may not be experienced as severely or suddenly. If so, what kind of risks may climate change cause to human health in Lahti? What have we been doing to mitigate these risks? Some preliminary actions are described in Table B4, although, further analysis and attention are needed, in general.
We are aiming to become a Climate-resilient city by 2030, meaning that we are both taking responsibility for global climate change by cutting the majority of our CO2 emissions (-70% from 1990 level by 2030) and also building a society that is able to cope with the changes that a warmer climate brings.
In Northern Europe, it is expected  that the temperature rise will be much higher than the global average: there will be a decrease in snow coverage, an increase in river flows and storm water, a northward movement of species and an increase in crop yields. The majority of climate change effects pose serious threats to ecosystems and risks to building infrastructure and human health. However, there may also be some beneficial impacts, such as the potential to grow a larger variety of food plants in northern latitudes or a decrease in the overall energy demand for heating.
A more detailed climate adaptation plan for Lahti will be adopted under the same process as the city strategy renewal, during September 2017 - April 2018. During this same strategic planning process, the new City Council of Lahti (2017-2021), will decide on 1) the vision for the Urban Master Plan of Lahti 2030, 2) the targets of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan and 3) the Environmental Programme of Lahti 2030. Thus, climate resiliency will be implemented in all major city strategy plans, at once.
Although the climate adaptation plan of Lahti City is currently under preparation, we are implementing several climate change adaptation measures with a future perspective (Table C1).
The selection rationale for these measures was based on projects and our impact and risk assessment analysis (Table B3).
We are also participating in the RESIN project, where our goal is to test the tools that our main partners have been developing, such as the Impact Chain Diagram. This provides us with a good opportunity to test the prepared Climate Adaptation Plan for Lahti.