Ljubljana, European Green Capital, wins another environmental award

March 23, 2016

Progress in sustainable mobility was the factor that brought the Slovenian capital city the Zlati kamen (Golden rock) award for this year. The national project’s council was also convinced with Ljubljana’s orientation towards development, tourism and environmental projects. The annual recognition is based on local authority’s success in providing conditions for quality of life.

This year the jury focused on sustainable mobility as the most important segment in assessing development. The members stressed that Ljubljana’s budget set the biggest cut for the segment of all Slovenian municipalities and that it was the only capital to win the European Mobility Week Award twice. The independent council of the Zlati kamen, which voted the winner,  praised “numerous talented and hard-working people in local services” for activities and progress,  particularly also for the zero waste programme. A significant step was also the opening of the biggest waste management site in the country, according to the experts. The overall progres also made Ljubljana European Green Capital this year, they said. Municipalities of Nova Gorica, Ptuj and Velenje won regional awards.

On March 10 Ljubljana formally bore the title awarded by the European Union for its sustainable development over the past ten years. The city celebrated with events throughout the day. At the official ceremony, European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries Karmenu Vella stated all Europeans can be proud of their cities, but that only a few can boast they live in a green capital. He added that coming generations expect and are entitled to a healthy environment.

Round table ‘Cities of the Future. How to Be a Solution Not a Problem.’ included, in addition to mayor Zoran Janković, the heads  of local governments of Belgrade, Budapest, Istanbul and Sofia as well as European commissioner for mobility and transport Violeta Bulc. Participants agreed political decisions in the environmental field are insignificant unless they resonate in people’s lives.  Janković stressed changes require very good planning and, above all, courage.

At a separate debate, Bulc said she believes horizontal cooperation among sectors of the economy will be crucial. Sustainable transport will depend on available electricity, she illustrated. Circular economy is not only planned by the EU but also by other countries around the world, like China, commissioner Vella underscored at the event, organized by the European Commission and Umanotera, a platform of NGOs.

A year-round programme includes numerous events and activities in cooperation with stakeholders including local public institutions and companies, primary schools and kindergartens, and non-governmental organisations. The Green Year is divided into theme months. For instance, January had focus on smart waste management, activities related to energy efficiency are reserved for June, and November is the month of climate change adaptation.  The budget has EUR 600,000 set for the programme.

Electric-powered tourist train Urban is starting its test drive in mid-April. The environmentally friendly zero-emissions vehicle is going to operate on a circular route connecting main city attractions. Urban is powered by a 40 kW electric engine and will travel approximately 100 kilometres per day. It is comprised of a towing vehicle and three trailers with an overall length of 19 metres. The train has 12 photovoltaic panels on the roof to help maintain energy while driving. The electric motor operates on the two-phase recovery principle where engine braking, especially while driving downhill, charges the battery cells. Top speed is 25 kilometres per hour.

The introduction of the electric train is part of the sustainable strategy of the City of Ljubljana and the company Ljubljanski potniški promet, which includes the modernisation of the fleet with electric and other vehicles. Urban was created by the transport operator and Slovenian electromobility expert Miro Zorč at the company Stoja, inovacije in proizvodnja.

This year Slovenia ranked fifth out of 180 countries in Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index. Its advantages are biodiversity and habitat, third largest forest-to-land ratio in the EU and forest preservation. However, the country is at position 100 in air quality due to very unfavorable conditions concerning exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particles PM 2.5. Nitrogen balance in the agricultural segment also scores below average. Slovenia gives high priority to environmental issues in two areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems, the accompanying document said.