During an official ceremony on 24 June, the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana was presented the European Green Capital 2016 award by the EU’s Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ljubljana beat four other shortlisted cities: Essen (Germany), Nijmegen (The Netherlands), Oslo (Norway), and Umeå (Sweden).
On presenting the award, Commissioner Potočnik said: "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."
Ljubljana received recognition for raising environmental awareness amongst its citizens, for its sustainability strategy 'Vision 2025' – which follows an integrated approach to environmental management –, its implementation of a range of urban green measures over the past decade – the Environmental Protection Programme, the Sustainable Mobility Plan, the Sustainable Energy Action Plan and the Electromobility Strategy – and its impressive transportation network.
Transportation in Ljubljana has changed dramatically over the past decade. From a city which was rapidly becoming dominated by the car, the focus has now shifted to ecofriendly alternatives. In 2013, Ljubljana modified the traffic flow within the city to limit motorised traffic and give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Cycling is also increasing, with over 1.6 million journeys using the 'BicikeLJ' bike-sharing system since 2011. Future transportation plans are promising in Ljubljana. In 2012 the city adopted goals that will see public transport, non-motorised traffic and private vehicles account for equal one-third shares of all transport by 2020.
Mayor of Ljubljana City Council, and Committee of the Regions’ (CoR) member, Mitja Meršol (SL/ALDE), said: “I'm not surprised that Ljubljana won the title, especially since the city is full of green parks and botanical gardens. I find this very important because contact with nature not only improves one's life in a city but also contributes towards a healthy society with a healthy state of mind”.
Organised by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment the European Green Capital Award, currently in its seventh year, aims to incite European cities to share best practices and be an inspiration for other cities in promoting sustainable urban development. It is an annual event that promotes and rewards the efforts of cities that are committed to improving the urban environment. The Award is given to a European city that has demonstrated a well-established record of achieving high environmental standards and is committed to ongoing and ambitious goals for future environmental improvement and sustainable development.Previous winners include: Nantes, (France), Stockholm, (Sweden), Hamburg, (Germany), and Vitoria-Gasteiz, (Spain).