Strategic research grants worth several millions awarded to two projects with HELSUS members

Two research consortiums with HELSUS members received funding in the autumn 2020 Strategic Research Council funding call.

The CO-CARBON and DECARBON-HOME research consortiums were each granted over 3,5 M euros of funding by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) of the Academy of Finland for the following three years.

Funding for both consortiums was granted as a part of the SRC’s Climate Change and Humans research programme, which aims to find novel ways for supporting different actors of the society in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Four consortiums in total received funding in the call, two of which have a strong representation by members of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS.

The CO-CARBON research group is led by Associate Professor Leena Järvi from the Faculty of Science and HELSUS, and is joined by Professor Christopher Raymond from HELSUS along with other partners. Director of HELSUS, Professor Anne Toppinen leads the DECARBON-HOME consortium, working with Associate Professor Venla Bernelius from the Faculty of Science and Urbaria, and other research partners.

CO-CARBON: Tackling climate change with green urban infrastructure

Green infrastructure in cities is seen as a possible solution for mitigating climate change and its impacts. The CO-CARBON project aims to measure and model carbon sinks in green infrastructure and further develop design, building and maintenance to enhance carbon sequestration together with other ecological and social benefits.

Associate Professor Leena Järvi and Professor Christopher Raymond see that the overarching aim of CO-CARBON is to promote carbon-smart urban green infrastructure to become a well-recognized part of urban transition at different societal levels in Finland and abroad.

– The project will fill in the knowledge gaps concerning urban carbon sequestration and storage and the socio-ecological co-impacts of carbon-smart urban green infrastructure including social inclusion, safety and climate resilience.  It is direct relevance to the HELSUS Urban Theme, in particular Connected, Heathy and Climate Friendly Lifestyles, sums Järvi and Raymond. Read more about urban sustainability here.

CO-CARBON will increase science-based knowledge on the carbon sequestration and storage potential of urban green infrastructure jointly with other socio-environmental benefits of urban green.

– Together with relevant stakeholders, we will co-design and co-create practical guidance, innovative solutions and procedures regarding how urban green infrastructure should be implemented in a climate-smart and equitable way. The project will explore new policy options for steering climate-smart behaviour of the various stakeholders, and manage the tensions between safety, inclusivity and justice when implementing carbon-smart solutions. Thus, the project will directly support sustainable urban development and transformations toward climate neutrality in Finland and elsewhere, says Järvi and Raymond.

Other partners in the research consortium include the Aalto University, Finnish Meteorological Institute, and Häme University of Applied Sciences.

DECARBON-HOME: Low-carbon, equitable housing for suburban and rural areas

The rural countryside and suburban areas of Finland are facing diverging drivers of change. The changing demographic and market factors, along with the need to adapt to and mitigate climate change are at the core of the DECARBON-HOME research project. The project aims to contribute to the sustainability and equitability of housing in these areas with low-carbon solutions.

Associate Professor Venla Bernelius sees that the aims to strengthen climate-friendly and socially just developments create an approach that is good for both people and nature.

– One of the exciting possibilities in this project to tie together social and ecological sustainability: one cannot exist without the other. Our multi-disciplinary approach helps us understand how these two are intertwined in housing, and how we can support people to make climate-wise choices, Bernelius says.

In addition to being helpful to individuals, finding ways to improve the social and economic situation of inhabitants assists to strengthen the decision-making institutions, and combats emissions reductions.

– We already know that poverty and urban segregation lower democratic participation and create barriers to climate action. Housing markets also create economic constraints. We hope to uncover some of the mechanisms behind these interdependencies, and engage communities to find solutions to support carbon neutral choices, Bernelius says.

The four research topics of the DECARBON-HOME consortium will investigate the abilities of individuals and communities to act for a more climate-smart living; the effect of values, attitudes and segregation on the adoption of climate-smart living; co-development of tools and solutions for climate-smart housing; and the strengthening of the citizen’s agency in low-carbon experiments and the co-creation of policies.

The research consortium is a collaboration between the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute, LUKE National Resources Institute Finland, University of Vaasa, and the Tallinn University of Technology.