Dale Medearis, an environmental Planner with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, returned from Finland confirmed in his convictions about Helsinki’s preeminence in energy and climate policies at the regional and local level. “Like many Scandinavian cities and Northern European countries and other pioneers like Germany, Denmark, and Sweden,” says Medearis, “the Finns have embraced energy efficiency, they’ve embraced heat and recapture, renewables, building labels, building design and multi-modal transportation systems including streetcars, an integrated tram system, rail, buses, biking, and this is exactly what we need to do. The results speak for themselves. Helsinki I think is six tons a person. While we as a region-- Washington, Virginia, and the Maryland suburbs—is at 20 tons a person in emissions. The results speak for themselves.”
And they continue to inspire Medearis on his home ground. He applied ideas gleaned from the Helsinki transit system to a county-wide comprehensive study of transportation alternatives. In November 2009 he returned to Helsinki, leading, along with his executive director, G. Mark Gibb, a Northern Virginia delegation of thirteen. The mayors of every region and county chairmen, including Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties, met with regional and city leaders to experience firsthand Helsinki’s lessons of sustainable climate and energy policy.
Going forward, Medearis plans to continue applying innovations seen in Helsinki and throughout Scandinavia—be it in transportation, energy efficiency, or building efficiency and design. “Helsinki has a 30-year head start on us; they got their act together after the first oil shock. The hope is we continue to apply these lessons. It’s not going to happen overnight, cities don’t get built overnight. Systems don’t get constructed overnight. It’s a multi-year, decade-long activity and my expectation that as we move forward, we will keep our own conversation on sustainable climate and energy policy informed by Helsinki’s work.”