Document 5/8/2008 | Finnish Environment Institute
Land use, infrastructure and climate change mitigation (SYKE-CCM) Land use and infrastructure The Finnish regional and urban structure Urban sprawl and climate change mitigation Connections between urban sprawl and transportation Research and research needs Ongoing projects More information
Land use and infrastructure Deforestation, urban sprawl, agriculture, and other human influences have substantially altered and fragmented our landscape. Such disturbance of the land changes the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the principal heat-trapping gas, as well as affects local, regional, and global climate by changing the energy balance on Earth's surface. The land use determines how we have to act: how and where we live, where we work, where the services are and how much we need space for these functions. The infrastructure connects the functions and enables interaction between places. The need to travel and the way to do it vary a lot. In every case the structure itself and the connections cause use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. But we can affect to the amount of these things.
The Finnish regional and urban structure Finland is a sparsely populated country, where landscapes are largely dominated by natural forests and lakes. Settlements are generally concentrated in coastal regions and alongside important lakes and waterways. Built-up areas cover less than three per cent of Finland, but they are home to more than 80% of the population. Most urban areas are relatively small, with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. Only ten cities have more than 50,000 residents, and even the largest cities are not densely built up by international standards. The economic depression of the 1990s was a turning point for the development of the regional and urban structure. After the depression the concentration of the regional structure has strengthened. Population growth has been concentrated in recent years in larger cities, and particularly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Many smaller settlements and rural areas are suffering from depopulation, due to migration to the growth centres.
Urban sprawl and climate change mitigation Finland's urban form is becoming fragmented. The density of the core areas of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and some other growing urban regions is getting higher. At the same time the fringe areas of the same urban regions are spreading out. Most of the Finnish urban regions are spreading out because the urban areas are expanding despite of the regressive population development. This development of the urban sprawl affects especially to the transportation increase and expensive low density infrastructure. The effects caused by urban sprawl on greenhouse gas emissions are an important factor when
Average daily one way work trip length
Finland's greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced to the 1990 level. The fragmented urban structure means longer daily trips to work and services higher building and maintaining cost for infrastructure higher traveling costs wasting natural resources and producing a lot of emissions An integrated urban structure means less emissions possibility for arranging and developing the public transport accessing the services better and easier saving the natural resources and saving energy The exceptionally fragmented Finnish urban structure enables integration without destroying nature values. Compacting the cities saves the urban areas from sprawl. Map: Dense urban areas at the Helsinki Map: Very low density built-up areas at the Metropolitan Area Helsinki Metropolitan Are
Connections between urban sprawl and transportation Areas of urban sprawl are also characterized as highly dependent on automobiles for transportation, a condition known as automobile dependency. Our consumption patterns are completely different from what they were twenty years ago. Transport, new types of housing, communication, tourism and leisure have emerged as major components of household consumption. Most activities, such as shopping, commuting to work, hobbies, etc. require the use of a car because all these functions as well as residential areas are so dispersed. It is important to add the attractiveness of the diverse urban areas. This can be done by wisely compacting the structure and realistically enlarging the urban area. It is also important not to enlarge the amount and attractiveness of the automobile dependent areas. Development of the traffic systems is the most important driver that causes urban expansion. SYKE develops new methods for sustainable urban planning together with the City of Kuopio and 12 biggest cities in Finland. The main focus is to analyze the system of urban structure as interaction between land use and transportation where zones of the urban structure are divided in three main classes: Walking City, Transit Cit and Car City ( pict.)
Picture: The system of urban structure as interaction betw een land use and transportation.
Case Lahti The transport zones of the urban structure in Lahti city region. Household automobile dependency correlates well with the location of the different transport zones. In the city core over 50 % of the households have no car in use. In the urban fringe over 50% have two cars or more. Source: SYKE /YKR Transport zones of the urban structure in Lahti city region.jpg (496 kb)
Research and research needs The monitoring and the analysis of the urban structure in Finland has a solid base and tradition. The Monitoring System of the Urban Structure (YKR) offers GIS-based tools for observing the development precisely. YKR is a suitable tool for regional and municipal land use planning and a good knowledge base for decision making. It also offers a basis for research work. Besides the analyses of the development of the urban regions there is also ongoing research about how the changes in the urban structure affect to the greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by estimating how much a certain type of urban structure creates traffic. The planners will then be able to estimate how much different scenarios generate traffic. The impact of the urban structure to greenhouse gas emissions now and within the next 40 years needs research. There are ways to develop our urban structure so that it produces less greenhouse gases. We have just to find out the right ways to do it. Another important question is what kind of urban structure would give people alternative means for travelling instead of the use of an automobile. This question raises up the connection between land use and infrastructure, especially the importance of connecting the transport system to the land use decisions.
Ongoing projects Automobile dependent urban structure and its alternatives (in Finnish: Autoriippuvainen yhdyskuntarakenne ja sen vaihtoehdot) The project analyses the aspects of the automobile dependence of urban regions. It perceives the ongoing development trends and estimates the characters of polycentric urban structure. The project aims to find out how automobile dependent the Finnish urban regions are and how the dependency could be reduced. Monitoring system of urban structure (YKR) (in Finnish: Yhdyskuntarakenteen seuranta) The geographic information system (GIS) that offers tools for analyzing, monitoring and
planning purposes. It offers long-term comparable information about the development and state of Finnish urban regions and rural areas. A fundamental tool for all spatial planning challenges. Sustainable urban land use and transport planning and assessment in city regions with networking and spatial information applications The main targets of the project are to equip and support local administration bodies and stakeholders to adopt management tools towards an integrated approach to sustainable urban development; facilitate implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures of climate change at regional level and their integration to urban planning; and use and innovate further integrated sustainable land use and transport planning tools. The PLUREL project Peri-urban Land Use Relationships - Strategies and Sustainability Assessment Tools for Urban-Rural Linkages is a European integrated research project within the European Commission's sixth framework programme. The project began on the first of January 2007 and is expected to end the 31st of December 2010.
More information Urban structure and information systems: Mr. Kari Oinonen, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 400 148 748, firstname.lastname@example.org [kari oinonen] Urban structure, transportation, land use planning and GIS: Mr. Mika RistimĂ¤ki, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 400 148 842, email@example.com [mika ristimaki]
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A good reading to understand the complexity and relation between the urban systems and climate change