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Director General's Review

 © Rhinoceros Oy/Mari Hohtari

Director General Pekka Kansanen

From the standpoint of the Environment Centre, 2007 ended with a major change: at the turn of the year, after long preparation, the office split off the Environmental Laboratory as a public enterprise of its own. Although, in terms of turnover, the matter was minor in the context of the entire group, it is important that the undertaking represents the first project, at the public-office level, on the sometimes rocky path of cooperation in the Capital Region.

The solution was significant from the standpoint of the future of municipal laboratory operations, too. It is essential from the standpoint of both crisis readiness and normal environmental health control that a municipal laboratory be able to ensure the performance of even rarely needed analyses under all conditions. For seeing the project through, the thanks go above all to the staff of the Helsinki and Vantaa laboratories, which were able to operate productively even in the midst of the change. The bright new facilities in Viikki create a pleasant setting for operations. Plans for moving the entire Environment Centre to a location next to the Viikki laboratory received new momentum. The objective is to complete the new building in 2011 at the latest.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Advisory Board also received, for its approval, a working group's proposal to improve cooperation between Helsinki's, Espoo's, Vantaa's and Kauniainen's environmental functions by means of a 15-point programme. As that is implemented, collaboration will become significantly closer and, from the perspective of city residents, the meaning of the municipal boundaries will diminish.

During the autumn, vigorous investments were also made in revising the environmental services strategy. Environmental protection entered the public discussion more strongly than in years, on account of climate change and, in spring, the street dust, as well as, in summer, the status of the Baltic Sea.

Three environmental challenges central from the perspective of Helsinki's success are coming up in the strategy work. How in future will we find the means to control the environmental problems of traffic in a growing metropolitan area? This involves not simply emissions into the air, but also increasing noise and the use of space - which manifests itself as growing traffic jams. We are delving into these issues in the ongoing air quality protection programme work, and in a noise control plan conforming to the Noise Directive. At the end of the year the City Council also called for the investigation of new methods for the control of traffic jams, among other things.

Adjustment to climate change and the control of emissions represent another major question. The energy policy report completed in the autumn outlines the future direction of energy production. The Executive Board of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council approved a well-prepared climate strategy for the Capital Region. Its perspective is primarily the restraint of energy consumption. The commitment of various parties - state authorities included - to concrete undertakings is now needed, so as to improve the integration of the community structure and the public transport system that supports that integration. For the years immediately ahead, the energy conservation and climate agreement signed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Finland's six largest cities includes demanding objectives - among other things, bringing the building stock's energy consumption under control.

A third major environmental change in progress consists of the eutrophication and growth in traffic, particularly shipments of oil, in the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. It is gratifying to observe that a desire to work actively for the good of the Baltic has been awakened in various sectors of society. The Baltic Sea Challenge posed by the mayors of Helsinki and Turku got a good reception, too, as about a hundred parties in all accepted the challenge and promised to formulate their own action programmes for improving the Baltic's condition.

The City Council's current term is approaching its end. In recent years a new strategy has been drawn up for each term. It is extremely important that the aforementioned environmental challenges receive the place they deserve in Helsinki's next strategy. At this stage, sticking our heads in the sand would be fateful.

In environmental health services, the most important development was the preparation of control plans. The plans will improve the direction of limited resources at targets critical from the standpoint of health. The prohibition of smoking in restaurants as from 1 June 2007 added significantly to tobacco control tasks.

In financial terms, the year progressed without surprises. Funding received from the City Board's appropriations advanced the implementation of the air quality protection programme and statutory projects, such as noise studies, affecting the entire city. A shortage of employee positions was worst in consumer counselling; the negative and justified client feedback received about consumer counselling tarnished the office's public image. The planned transfer of consumer counselling to the state will not be implemented until the beginning of 2009.

In closing I'd like to thank all our partners in all Capital Region's cities and, more broadly, both the Environment Committee and the entire staff for a productive year 2007.

Pekka Kansanen


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