Advancing sustainable transformation of cities: An analysis of city and household level efforts in the pursuit of carbon-neutrality targets

Hannele Ahvenniemi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


It has been widely recognised that cities and particularly the built environment have a major role in fighting against climate change. Acknowledging the challenge, city governments have been eager to declare ambitious carbon-neutrality targets along with smart city strategies. Simultaneously academia and the business sector have announced a number of measures and solutions as to how these targets can be reached. However, a commonly accepted definition on smart cities – and an understanding of the link to sustainable cities – is still lacking. High expectations are also faced by households, major contributors of cities' greenhouse gas emissions, who are expected to be motivated to adopt smart and sustainable measures and understand the significance of them. This dissertation composes of five individual studies examining the topic 'Advancing sustainable transformation of cities' from various angles and on both city and household levels. The first part of the dissertation focuses on the target setting of cities, studying 1) the similarities and differences of smart and sustainable city targets, and 2) how cities express their environmental sustainability targets in their strategies. The second part of the dissertation deals with the household level, studying the environmental impacts and economic benefits of sustainability measures implemented by households, as well as other motivational factors behind sustainable choices. The results of the publications show that advancing environmental sustainability efficiently on both city and household levels may be challenging. When cities aim for 'smartness', they do not automatically pursue environmental sustainability. It seems that remarkable efforts are still needed to incorporate environmental sustainability targets of cities to an all-compassing action plan. When households implement carbon mitigating actions, these actions may not always lead to efficient results, nor do they necessarily provide economic benefits. Forerunner households who have implemented renewable energy technologies however report other type of benefits: they experience pleasure from energy self-sufficiency and being able to share information, among others. Information is crucial regarding households' efforts to cut carbon by implementing actions, and smart technologies may play a key role here. While smartness targets have become pervasive – bringing along technologies and measures to speed up sustainable transformation – it is essential for cities to clarify which of the smart measures truly are useful in regard of environmental sustainability goals.
Translated title of the contributionKaupunkien kestävyystavoitteiden edistäminen – Hiilineutraaliustavoitteita edistävien menettelyjen tarkastelu kaupunkien sekä kotitalouksien tasolla
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Kosonen, Risto, Supervising Professor
  • Häkkinen, Tarja, Thesis Advisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0192-8
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0193-5
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • sustainable city
  • smart city
  • household energy
  • renewable energy
  • carbon mitigation
  • cost impact
  • household energy behaviour


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