Helsinki Wants To Cut Car Emissions Entirely, Make Cars Unnecessary By 2050

A historically green city aims to get even greener.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has placed a heavy focus on green energy in its history. Just a city of roughly 600,000, its citizens have always enjoyed open, relatively small limits marked by wide roads and many accompanying bike lanes. Now the city wants to take things a step further — Helsinki is aiming to make cars unnecessary by 2050.

Green areas apparently already make up 47 percent of space in the city, but urban planners envision a future for it that has even fewer cars and in turn cleaner air than it already enjoys. The idea is not to ban cars entirely, but do everything possible to discourage people from using them. By developing green neighborhoods with essential shops and services within walking distance and increasing parking costs, the hope is that citizens will ditch their cars entirely. This doesn't mean it'll be much more difficult to travel farther, because an already expansive network of trams and metro trains will be positioned as even more convenient.

Rikhard Manninen, head of Helsinki's Strategic Urban Planning Division, calls this effort "boulevardisation": transforming packed inner-city roads into green residential boulevards and producing cleaner air by the reduction of carbon emissions. Because the city is expected to see a growth in population of 40 percent by 2050, this plan should help it achieve a goal of becoming totally carbon neutral by that time. This means Helsinki won't emit any more carbon into the atmosphere than its surrounding forests are able to absorb.

Not everyone is on board with the measures required to make this a reality — car owners and those who don't want to see the city's small feel disrupted by skyscrapers included — but city officials have promised the changes won't be taken too far. "Building upward will be permitted in some places, but not in the centre," Manninen told AFP. And although some parks will have to be reduced in size to accommodate these plans, 40 percent of the city is to remain green.

Since Helsinki is situated on a peninsula, growth is a tricky thing to navigate. However, the city is clearly getting ahead of the challenges presented. Cities around the world may soon look to it as a model for how to build a green, sustainable metropolis of the future.

Cover image via Wikimedia