From the community

Three4Climate: Cities from Portugal and Germany explore climate action projects in Slovenia

by Klavdija Polutnik (Energap), edited by Iva Radić-Capuani (adelphi)

The last virtual study tour within the EUKI project Three4Climate took the participants to Maribor and Kranj (Slovenia) in October 2021. The host cities presented their climate action activities in different areas to the project partner cities Loulé and Braga (Portugal) as well as Bielefeld and Radolfzell (Germany). Through videos and expert presentations, visitors were able to experience the cities, learn about exciting projects and exchange ideas with their peers.

First stop: Maribor

The study tour started in Maribor, a charming city with rich historical and cultural heritage surrounded by the Pohorje Massif and picturesque vineyards, with a video welcome speech and an overview of local climate action by the mayor Aleksander Saša Arsenovič. Through various measures to strengthen sustainable mobility and green infrastructure, as well as by setting ambitious targets in this regard, Maribor is striving to maintain a high-quality living environment.

In the further course, the city’s projects related to nature conservation, improvement of biodiversity and the spread of green areas, parks and corridors were examined in more detail.

The city park Three Ponds and the small island in the Drava River, carefully maintained by the municipality and home to many birds and plant species, are great examples of the protection of nature and biodiversity. On the Drava promenade, the swans have even become its symbol. Every year the municipality erects a fence around the swan nests and passers-by can witness the rearing and growing of the young swans.

Great attention is also paid to the tree rows and flower beds in the city. Public green spaces destroyed by improper parking are being renewed, and projects to create “urban forests” in industrial areas and conurbations are planned.

Next, the programs in Maribor aimed at reducing car traffic and promoting cycling, walking and the use of public transport were presented. These include closing large areas to car traffic, building new bike lanes, establishing a bike parking facility (Kolesodvor) in front of the main train station, providing free parking for alternative fuel cars, establishing an electric car sharing system, improving public transport, etc.

Second stop: Kranj

The tour continued in Kranj, the third largest municipality in Slovenia, located on a rock below Šmarjetna gora at the confluence of the Kokra and Sava rivers. The mayor Matjaž Rakovec welcomed the participants in a video message and introduced the town and its climate action activities.

Kranj’s sustainable mobility strivings and projects were presented, especially in the field of e-mobility. One of them is KRsKOLESOM – the largest electrified bike rental system in Slovenia with 75 electric bikes. KRsKOLESOM goes beyond the city limits and other municipalities in the Gorenjska region in a joint Gorenjska.bike system. Other projects include the Prostofer Project – a volunteer service of active drivers providing free rides to elderly people who need transportation and Kranvaj – a free e-minibus service running through the Old Town.

The participants were then able to learn about Kranj’s various greening, infrastructure and digitalization projects, all of which are part of the city’s efforts to achieve a sustainable transformation.

Among the examples of projects presented was the greening of the roof of the Stane Žagar elementary school, with positive environmental impacts (water retention, cooling of the building on hot summer days and heat conservation in winter), as well as educational and social ones, as it is used by students and school staff as a classroom and outdoor terrace. Other efforts include a commitment by the municipality to plant 1000 new trees over the next 4 years.

Among the infrastructure projects and future plans are the creation of shorter connections between different parts of the city by public transport and the connection of the urban area with the surrounding natural environment through a pedestrian bridge and a new bicycle path. Digitalization efforts also include the Smart Settlement Mlaka pilot project, which will make it possible to gather all the settlement’s energy and water data in one place and make it available to the city administration, as Tomaž Lanišek, from the Unit for Development, Smart Community and Projects explained in his presentation.

The closing topics of the tour were regional approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as plans to increase energy efficiency in public buildings in Maribor and Kranj. Both cities shared their experiences and touched upon aspects such as the potential for using wastewater for heating purposes, the development of a sustainable energy plan for the region, and the involvement of stakeholders in and financing of public building renovation projects.

With the virtual study tour to Slovenia, the Three4Climate municipalities completed showcasing their local climate action activities within the project. Having virtually visited each other, the community representatives and the relevant departments in the three countries were able to build connections which will enable further exchange of tested measures and ideas in the future.

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