Ljubljana takes over the title of European Green Capital from the city of Bristol at a ceremony on 9 February at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels. The Slovenian capital transformed itself into one of Europe’s greenest cities in less than one decade.
As the European Green Capital for 2016, Ljubljana will act as ambassador for sustainable urban development by sharing its best practices and encouraging cities across Europe to become more sustainable, writes the European Commission in a news release.
But its path from the capital of the first country to gain independence from the former Yugoslavia to one of Europe’s greenest cities cannot be taken for granted.
Writing for citiscope, Simone D’Antonio explains that much of Ljubjlana’s green success lies in its decision to ban cars from the city centre. Since 2012, only pedestrians, bicycles and buses are allowed, as well as an electric taxi service that offers free rides to the elderly, disabled or mothers with children. Visitors to the city centre have to park their vehicles at a nearby underground garage and walk from there. The result is cleaner air, safer streets and quieter public spaces, as well as increased business and tourism in the historic centre.
That contentious but successful move is part of mayor Zoran Janković’s Vision 2025, a long-term plan to improve quality of life in the city. In addition to reducing traffic and overhauling the transport system, the city now recycles nearly two-thirds of its waste and was the first EU capital to devise a “zero waste” strategy.
According to the article, Ljubljana’s green spaces are also being revitalised through cultural festivals, urban gardening, flea markets and concerts.
As D’Antonio writes, the title of European Green Capital often goes to wealthier cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm and Hamburg that are regarded internationally as leaders in sustainable urban development. Awarding the title to Ljubljana shows that “cities of modest size and means have lessons to offer, too”.