Interview with Risto Veivo, the new Climate Director in Turku

Interview with Mr. Risto Veivo – the newly appointed Climate Director for the city of Turku and Co-chair of the Sustainable Cities Commission

The city of Turku is one of the world’s leading climate cities, reaching the CDP Leadership A-list in 2019 and in 2020 and winning the European Covenant of Mayors Award for Best mid-sized Climate City in 2020. The main goal of Turku’s climate policy is a carbon neutral city area by 2029 and climate positive from there onwards and at the same time with mitigating climate change, Turku also prepares for the effects of climate change.

The city of Turku is leading by example, also being one of the first cities to appoint a Climate Director for the city organization.

UBC SCC: Mr Veivo, you have been working with climate issues in the city for a number of years and now you have started as the Climate Director for the city. Could you tell us about this important step and what will it mean for the climate action in the city of Turku?

Risto Veivo: Turku has been implementing ambitious and successful Climate policies for more than a decade. Establishing the position of Climate Director and creating the Climate unit in central administration are part of this process and help us to move forward. Climate Action is a big task for the whole city organization and requires strong involvement of civic society. So we have much to do!

UBC SCC: Turku is on a good path towards its goal to be carbon neutral by 2029 and has succeeded in decreasing the carbon emissions by 50% from the 1990 levels. What would you say is behind the success of the good climate work in the city of Turku?

Risto Veivo: Our citizens and politicians have listened to Science and dared to be bold. We have early on seized the opportunities of low-carbon economy and green innovations. Decisions on the main investments to renew our energy-system were done at the right moment and have been future-oriented. Our Climate goals are dutifully implemented and monitored.

UBC SCC: What are the challenges that remain, the obstacles the city still faces in order to reach the ambitious goal?

Risto Veivo: Most of our emission reductions so far have come from the energy transition. Transport emissions have decreased slower, but still almost by a quarter from the baseline of 1990. During the next years, we need to find ways to reduce both of these emissions further. This will require even more actions by citizens and private investors. At the same time, our green economy will keep growing providing more opportunities for innovation, businesses and jobs.

UBC SCC: Global warming causes floods, erosion, rising sea levels and unpredictable weather phenomena. We have also witnessed that climate change impacts, much like pandemics, know no boundaries. What are the issues you see as most urgent at the moment for the city of Turku and also at the regional level regarding tackling climate impacts?

Risto Veivo: In Turku the biggest identified Climate risks are related to changes and resilience of our ecosystems as well as to the impacts of waters, including for example flooding, temporary sea level rises and heavy rains at unusual times of the year. Climate adaptation and resilience measures are challenging new topics to all of us, so it’s very useful to share our experiences, learn from each other and create solutions together. Co-operation within UBC is perfect for this and is a real asset for our Climate work!

Thank you for the interview Mr. Veivo and we wish you a lot of success in your new role as the Climate Director for the City of Turku!