The European Green Capital team outline why Ljubljana is the first and only European green capital in central and south Eastern Europe…
Ljubljana is a city that will surprise you and exceed your expectations. It is unique – small by surface area, but huge in its hospitality and quality of life. On 275 m2 you will find all the characteristics of big metropolises and at the same time, you will be fascinated by its greenery, cleanness, safety, and friendliness of its 287,000 residents. In the last decade, numerous sustainable changes have happened, and this is one of the reasons why the European Commission awarded Ljubljana with the title of European Green Capital 2016. According to the jury, Ljubljana is the city that made the biggest change in the field of sustainability in the shortest period of time.
Since 2007, when we introduced the Vision Ljubljana 2025, we set out to ensure that our city becomes a sustainable and ideal city by 2025. In the Vision, the concept of sustainable development and urban planning are closely intertwined. In the last 9 years we have successfully implemented more than 1,700 projects that are in line with the Vision.
Representatives of various world cities we meet, often see Ljubljana as an example of good practice, pointing out its determination and courage to implement sustainable mobility projects in the city centre, where we established an ecological zone by closing it to motorised vehicles and opening it to pedestrians and cyclists. We completely transformed the main artery in the centre with altered traffic regime and the creation of shared space dedicated only to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Now, on the main road, there are no private motorised vehicles, and the refurbished city walkway is lined with young ash trees attracting butterflies and bees.
The city has become revitalised with new energy; it has become not only an ecological zone but it is a big living room for diverse social, cultural, sporting and other events where people can meet and enjoy.
However, one of the major challenges was to change the established habits of residents, to make a shift in their mind-sets in order to allow a better quality of life and a sustainable future. For this reason, we cooperate and communicate with numerous stakeholders, especially with those that are the most affected by the change. Sustainable strategies are carefully formulated, and projects are thoughtfully carried out in the cooperation with numerous local, regional and national stakeholders. Participation in the process is not limited only to experts or certain stakeholder groups but is wide and open to all.
According to the jury, Ljubljana successfully combines 2 things: we are protecting and preserving the recognisable green identity of the city and actively transforming areas that not too long ago were not green or environmentally sustainable.
We have a large share of green surfaces. Almost 3/4 of the city’s surface is covered with green areas. There are 4 nature parks in Ljubljana. Among them the Ljubljana Marsh Nature Park – Natura 2000 areas represent more than 16% of the city’s surface. The park is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Forests cover 46% of the entire area of Ljubljana and reach right into the city centre. 20% of Ljubljana’s area has a nature protection status. We have also revitalised a large number of degraded areas and brownfields and created 80 acres of new parks.
Furthermore, we are continuing to offer sustainable mobility options to our residents and visitors, such as building park & ride facilities, greening our public transport bus fleet and prolonging the travel routes into neighbouring municipalities, expanding the network of the bike-sharing system BicikeLJ and encouraging electrical mobility.
Ljubljana is the capital that has already exceeded the EU’s recycling targets for 2020 by 10%. We rank first in separately collected waste in Europe and we are also the first European capital to be part of the Zero Waste Europe network. Our regional centre for waste management has the most advanced system of processing mixed and organic waste in Europe. It will manage waste for one-third of the country while creating new green jobs.
The main water source for Ljubljana and its outskirts is groundwater from 2 different ecosystems: Ljubljana Marsh and Ljubljansko Field. Water is of outstanding quality, and there is no need for technical treatment. This proves that the city’s development has been closely tied up to sustainable measures for the protection of water sources.
The city carries out a number of actions, campaigns and events to encourage its residents towards more green lifestyles. It has become a yearly tradition to conduct a month-long spring cleaning campaign For a More Beautiful Ljubljana as well as the Sustainable Energy Week and the twice-awarded European Mobility Week. We decided that every member of our so-called ‘large city family’, which comprises more than 12000 colleagues in the city administration along with public companies and institutions, should plant their own tree. Tree planting campaign has been launched last year and it will be completed this year.
Even though we have not only met, but even exceed some important goals, one can always find room for improvement and further development. At the moment, we are implementing over 90 projects and each one of them is “green”. We will continue to restore degraded areas and nurture the established green ones. To fight climate change, we will, through various measures, reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020 in addition to balancing the distribution of mobility; so by the end of the decade, one third of all journeys will be made by public transport, one-third by foot and bicycle, and one-third by car. Additionally, we will reduce water loss and preserve clean drinking water, which must remain a public good, accessible to all.
We are very proud and honoured to be the seventh European city that won the prestigious title of European Green Capital. In 2016, every month is dedicated to different sustainable topic and we are carrying out numerous daily activities with different stakeholders to raise awareness among citizens on green issues and encourage them to make Ljubljana even more green, clean, hospitable and friendly. We would like to invite readers to visit Ljubljana and experience our city first hand.
European Green Capital 2016 team
City of Ljubljana