Resilience in face of climate change - interests converge as Japan´s Nagano visited Finland´s City of Turku

Mayor of Turku, Ms Minna Arve, surrounded by core team members of the IUC city-to-city partnership team formed by Turku, Nagano, and Obuse (Photo: City of Turku)

In November 2019 a delegation from the City of Nagano and the neighboring Town of Obuse visited the City of Turku on the Finnish Baltic Sea coast. These three municipalities have been selected to form a city -to- city partnership within the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme initiated by the EU.

The delegation from Japan sat down with the Turku Central Administration’s Climate team and immediately found a topic of common interest. Nagano and Obuse had in the middle of October been hit by a historically big typhoon called Hagibis. As the result of extreme amounts of rain, the Chikuma river flooded a large area creating extensive damage. Members of the delegation were personally affected and Turku had seen international news about the disaster. The City of Turku also had experiences of unexpected flooding due to rain. How to deal with vulnerabilities in face of local climate extremes related to global warming? How can communities become more resilient? These vivid experiences of dramatic climate effects quickly led the discussion on to some of the main topics of the partnership - climate change prevention, renewable energy and sustainable resource use.

Nagano and Obuse are located in central Japan surrounded by mountains. Turku is located in a flat region on the Baltic Sea coast. However, both areas are rich in forests and share an interest in how to make sustainable use of wood and biomass resources. Forests have many roles in society. They are a source of energy, serve as carbon sinks and form complex ecosystems. At the same time they provide both jobs and recreation for citizens.

Sustainability policies in Turku are focused on key concepts, such as resource wisdom, carbon neutrality and circular economy. The delegation from Japan could see several examples of this. Advanced textile recycling is developed in the Topinpuisto Circular Economy Park. The Kakolanmäki Wastewater Treatment Plant was built inside rock under a hill in central Turku. Heat is recovered and used for heating apartments and biogas is produced from the sludge. Energy company Turku Energia is striving to make Turku the Finnish city with the lowest CO2 emissions. The Naantali Multi Fuel Power Plant is part of this effort. The large-scale district heating plant is quickly replacing coal with biofuels. Hot water is sent through an underground tunnel to Turku, keeping residents' homes warm and cozy in the cold climate.

The three municipalities found another common interest in agricultural innovation and food. Organic waste from fruit farms in Obuse can be used as energy and Nagano is developing sorghum as a new agricultural product suitable for dry land. The discussion naturally turned to food as Turku city hall served vegan and vegetarian lunches. Citizens of Turku are well aware of the climate impact of meat production - a discussion not yet so common in Japan. Turku also presented some research on consumer behaviour in the Flavoria Food Experience Centre and Living Lab carried out in the real life of a restaurant. How are eating habits affected by statistical data on food waste, or by music and wall colors?

Common challenges and perspectives will be explored further in the spring of 2020 when a delegation from the City of Turku will visit the City of Nagano and the Town of Obuse.

Text: Lena Lindahl