Ljubljana European Green Capital 2016
Examining what 2016 means for the City of Ljubljana
Scene of Ljubljana overlooking Ljubljana Castle
On the 24th June 2014, at a ceremony hosted in Copenhagen, the European Commission announced Ljubljana as the winner of the European Green Capital Award 2016. It was a closely contested event, with Essen, Nijmegen, Oslo and Umeå all vying for the much coveted award. In the end, Ljubljana trumped all "for raising environmental awareness amongst its citizens, for its sustainability strategy 'Vision 2025', its implementation of a range of urban green measures over the past decade and its impressive transportation network."
The award was presented by none other than the EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, who said: "It gives me great pleasure to present Ljubljana with the European Green Capital Award for 2016. As a citizen of Ljubljana, it is with immense pride that I congratulate the city on its environmental achievements. I very much look forward to its year as the 2016 European Green Capital. 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."
The fact that Ljubljana wins this award in 2016 is something of significance. Today's world is one in which social responsibility is finally coming first. World governments have collectively acknowledged that without an immediate response to man-made climate change, a global catastrophe will await future generations. Responsibility has been accepted, commitments have been made and for everybody except the climate sceptics it is clear to see that sustainability is no longer a small matter which cities, societies, communities can choose to ignore. The COP21 Agreement has effectively changed the way the world deals with its environmental responsibility forever. Ljubljana being the first city to hold the European Green Capital Award after the Paris Agreement is more than symbolic: for every city which holds the Green Capital Award hereon in is doing so in an era where sustainability issues are expected to be fully integrated into all elements of business and city life. The European Green Capital Award is more important than ever, and Europe will be looking to Ljubljana as an example of what can be achieved by a city committed to going green.
And whilst Ljubljana can enjoy being the 7th European Green Capital, it can also enjoy its status of being only one of three actual capital cities (the other two being Stockholm and Copenhagen). Generally speaking, greening a capital city can be far more challenging than greening other cities and towns, but Ljubljana has benefited from having one of the lowest populations of any European Green Capital. In fact, only Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain has a lower population (only just). Ljubljana's smaller population has enabled the city to really showcase its environmental behaviour without the overcrowded hustle and bustle of a large capital city, whilst at the same time really position itself as an exemplar for all capital cities in Europe and the world.
Speaking about the benefits of having this years award, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella had this to say:
“The value of the award is in how it can serve as an inspiration and create an entirely new mindset on how urban areas can and should be treated. It helps with investments that make citizens use water and energy more efficiently, for example. You can energise a city and not only build civic pride, but also new economic activity.”
Ultimately an economy is a means to an end: the well-being of human societies. Its prosperity depends on resources provided by our planet, and the fact of the matter is that most economies around the world today are environmentally unsustainable. Ljubljana not only aims to deliver a green quality of life, but it is also actively setting out a new environmental, social and economical framework which is environmentally sustainable and will provide plenty of economic opportunity for its citizens both now and in the future.
In the short term, just having the European Green Capital Award is a major advantage for Ljubljana's economy. For starters, a boost in tourism has always been a major ancillary benefit for every Green Capital so far and there is every reason to expect Ljubljana to be benefiting from an increased influx of foreign and domestic visitors. That will bode very well for all local businesses, hotels and the tourism industry, who will be reaping the benefits of these higher tourist numbers. In February of this year, the number of overnight stays in Ljubljana increased by 17% compared to February 2015. When you consider that Ljubljana has more than doubled the number of overnight stays in just a decade and has been enjoying record years for tourism every year since 2009, one can only imagine what sort of records will be broken in 2016.
This is certain to have a very positive effect on the retail and leisure sector in Ljubljana, as can already be seen from some of the city's recent developments. The Continental Group have already begun construction work on Ljubljana's first five-star hotel, and Swedish furniture giant IKEA are to launch their flagship shopping centre in Ljubljana's BTC shopping district. Ljubljana is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for investors, and with the increased awareness of climate change and the increased attractiveness of the city resulting from its Green Capital status, one can only expect this trend to continue and accelerate in the coming months and years.
In this four part feature, Sustain Europe takes a look at some of the ways in which sustainability is represented in everyday life in Ljubljana. We will examine how Ljubljana is contributing to a more sustainable Europe, and we will take a look at what makes Ljubljana such a special city and find out what we can all learn from the city.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of a city which made a new name for itself by being green.
WATCH VIDEO PLAYED AT THE EUROPEAN GREEN CAPITAL 2016 AWARD CEREMONY
Ljubljana European Green Capital: 1 January - 31 December 2016
To find out about what Ljubljana is up to during its year as European Green Capital, please visit their official website:
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