Peer-learning expert mission: Tearing up pavements in Milan, going digital in Helsinki

Peer-learning expert mission: Tearing up pavements in Milan, going digital in Helsinki

Thanks to the Covenant of Mayors peer learning programme, Helsinki shared this and some other fascinating best practices with and Milan in a three-day expert mission on 15 to 17 December 2021. We share some of these great ideas with you below

The Covenant Expert Mission brings together advanced cities working towards climate neutrality to exchange ideas, build capacity, and develop lasting relationships. Conceived as a mentor-mentee programme, the Expert Mission facilitates an open exchange of ideas between participating cities.


The city of Helsinki has an ambitious plan to become carbon-neutral by 2035. The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 actions deal with the improvement of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The plan is complemented by the development programme of Helen Ltd, the energy company owned by the city, which is responsible for emissions reductions in energy production. In Helsinki, at one glance you can see information about all buildings’ energy consumption, thanks to a tool they call the ‘Energy and Climate Atlas’.

One of the key actions to make this ambition a reality is the Energy and Climate Atlas, a visual tool to inform the decision-making of housing companies and the city, as well as other operators in the property and construction sector, such as companies supplying solar panels. The Energy and Climate Atlas brings various types of data onto a single platform where they are made available to all users and on any smart device.

In the Atlas, you can search for a building’s information either by address or by navigating to it on a 3D model. The Energy and Climate Atlas includes basic information of all buildings, as well as energy consumption information from Helsinki’s buildings. In addition to these, more detailed information on the energy consumption of the buildings owned by the City of Helsinki is also available. The newest data include the simulation results for the heating energy consumption of all Helsinki buildings, carbon dioxide emissions of heating, and the reduction potential for these through renovations. The tool is also being updated to provide information on opportunities for geothermal heating.

Another tool used by Helsinki is the Climate Watch, a digital open-source platform to monitor the progress of actions in the action plan. Each action has a contact person, who adds information about tasks and events of the action. Every action and indicator has its own web page, with more details and possibly with quantitative data and objectives.

The visit focused on deep-dives into these two innovative examples, and benefitted from the online presence of all relevant colleagues in the city administration. Colleagues from Milan had the chance to better understand the tools, their potential, their financing and governance mechanisms. They also carried out a replication assessment to understand under what conditions they could be implemented in Milan.


The city of Milan is a frontrunner in urban regeneration projects with strong adaptation and nature-based solutions. As part of the programme, Milan shared some key actions of its Air and Climate Plan that could help Helsinki to address its vulnerabilities to floods and extreme rainfall.

One of these projects is ForestaMI, a forestry project to plant 3 million trees by 2030 in the metropolitan area, increasing tree canopy cover by 5% and absorbing 5 million tons of CO2 per year. The trees will be planted in the areas of schools, uncultivated green areas, productive/industrial areas, and unused areas to be reclaimed by the city.

Another key action is the ‘care and adopt public green’, a programme through which the City of Milan starts collaboration agreements or sponsorship contracts with people and companies to help them to improve the green management in the city. In ten years sponsorships increased by 900%, from 50 to 504 green spaces allocated for management and maintenance.

Finally, Milan presented the depaving programme, which targets different lots within the city and transforms them into green areas, increasing the absorption and alleviating the urban heat island effect.

Adaptation experts from Helsinki and Milan discussed these projects and more in detail. They identified the potential for developing or replicating them, and openly exchanged on the enabling conditions, stakeholder involvement, and potential challenges and solutions.

Additional city projects

In addition to the above, our cities shared ideas on a few other projects they are undertaking as part of their push to carbon neutrality. Some highlights below:

The Covenant of Mayors peer programme aims to increase local authorities’ capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change while creating long-term partnerships between European, local and other subnational authorities.



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