Riga’s pursuit of climate neutrality
Riga, nestled on the shores of the Gulf of Riga along the Baltic Sea, is a vibrant cultural hub with a rich history. Situated strategically in Northern Europe, the city has long served as a crucial trading crossroads. At the heart of the city lies the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which boasts fascinating Art Nouveau architecture, with over a third of its buildings designed in this unique style.
Navigating challenges and embracing sustainability
Nowadays, many are the challenges that cities have to tackle to become future-proofed and Latvia makes no exception.
It comes as no surprise that the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected the energy market. Notably an 84.1% increase in energy resource prices in Latvia in October 2022 compared to the previous year. This surge in costs has compelled Riga to address its energy consumption issues. The primary challenge is shifting away from natural gas and adopting heat pumps, while also improving the energy efficiency of aging buildings. Transitioning to zero-emission heating sources is imperative in the pursuit of a sustainable future.
The transportation sector accounts for a significant portion of Riga’s emissions, contributing 42% of total CO2 emissions citywide. To combat this issue, active citizen engagement is key. Encouraging individuals to leave their cars at home and opt for bicycles or public transport is the first important step.
Finally, to create a more eco-friendly urban environment, Riga has recognized the importance of increasing its greenery. A key initiative involves planting more trees throughout the city. This endeavor not only enhances the city’s aesthetics but also contributes to improved air quality and overall well-being for its residents.
The EUCityCalc Project: scenarios for better policies
In a bid to navigate these challenges effectively, Riga’s municipality has chosen to participate in the EUCityCalc project. This innovative webtool allows all pilot cities to simulate low-carbon scenarios and formulate policies rooted in scientific data.
With the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) already submitted, the municipality is now crafting its Climate City Contract, a participatory planning document that aligns specific actions with the city’s climate and energy strategy. In this context, the Calculator will help Riga to evaluate if these actions are ambitious enough to reach climate neutrality.
Since the involvement of relevant stakeholders is essential to take all needs into account, Riga’s municipality has established a Climate Neutrality working group, initially comprising council employees and municipal institution experts, which has since expanded to include professionals and scientific institutions specializing in energy and climate-related matters. This dedicated group developed the SECAP and now is actively participating in EUCityCalc’s co-creation workshops.
By addressing energy efficiency, green initiatives, transportation emissions, and data-driven strategies, Riga strives to become a climate-neutral city, paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable future.