European Green Capital for Ljubljana
The city of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, is to be the European Green Capital in 2016. The European accolade recognises the progress the city has made in improving the environment and quality of life of its inhabitants.
Announcing the decision in Copenhagen, in June, was especially poignant for European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik. A Slovenian citizen, he studied for his economics degree at Ljubljana University. “It is with immense pride that I congratulate the city on its environmental achievements,” he said. “All of the finalists of this award provide us with valuable real-life examples of how respect for the environment, excellent quality of life and economic growth can all be successfully combined.”
Ljubljana is the seventh European Green Capital Award winner. The annual competition was launched in 2008 to reward city administrations that set high environmental standards and provide an example for others. Currently, Copenhagen (Denmark) holds the prize for 2014. Previous holders are Stockholm (Sweden), Hamburg (Germany), Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) and Nantes (France), and in 2015 Bristol (UK) will take the title.
Every candidate undergoes a rigorous judging process. A panel of experts assesses each city on 12 different environmental criteria, ranging from sustainable employment to waste management, and draws up a shortlist. A jury comprising members drawn from European bodies which have a say in sustainable urban development makes the final selection.
Ljubljana, with a population of 280 000, impressed the jury with its integrated sustainable development strategy ‘Vision 2025’, and its progress over the last 10-15 years. Formerly a city dominated by cars, it now gives priority to public transport, pedestrians and cycling networks.
Green areas make up three-quarters of Ljubljana’s territory – preserved by planting more than 2000 trees, building five new parks and restoring the banks of the Sava and Ljubljanica rivers. The city has also made progress in waste and waste-water treatment, committing itself to a zero-waste objective in the long term. In addition, jury members praised Ljubljana’s efforts to share its experience in managing natural disasters, demonstrated during the recent flooding crisis in the Western Balkans.
Cities are the places where more than two-thirds of Europeans live, work, produce and consume, so it is here that environmental challenges have to be met first. In the past, only urban areas with populations of at least 200 000 were eligible to become European Green Capital. But the 2016 award was opened up to cities of 100 000 people or more. In future, said DG Environment Director-General Karl Falkenberg, the European Commission may look at ways to recognise the environmental efforts of smaller towns as well.
The call for applications for the 2017 Green Capital Award is already open: the deadline is 20 October 2014.