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The Green Deal is a Big Deal

Testifying to just how dear the issues of environmental protection are to the hearts of Slovenia’s citizens are its spotlessly clean streets filled with cyclists, clear rivers, landscaped mountain trails and high interest in renewables

The number of climate change sceptics has fallen dramatically over the last year. Last August saw large swathes of Slovenia devastated by catastrophic floods, with swollen rivers and streams sweeping away and destroying thousands of homes in just a few hours, as well as devastating energy, road and telecommunications networks in the country’s northeast. The damage to households was calculated in the billions of euros, while companies sustained even worse damage. Company KLS Ljubno, which produces parts for the automotive industry, was forced to suspend production due to the consequences of the flood, and this suspension in turn compelled German automobile giant Volkswagen to halt production at several of its factories in Europe for several weeks.

Slovenians felt firsthand the power of nature and the powerlessness of man, but also had an opportunity to experience and understand the meaning and might of European and international solidarity. Military helicopters from Austria and Croatia assisted the Slovenian Army in saving lives threatened by the raging waters, top engineers came from Germany to build new bridges, military engineering units from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and North Macedonia cleared roads and rivers… If there’s anywhere in the world where the people understand that man alone cannot defeat nature, then Slovenia is just such a place, given the unprecedented power of water that its people experienced and survived last August.

Testifying to just how dear the issues of environmental protection are to the hearts of Slovenia’s citizens, and how active they are in launching initiatives to deal with these issues, are its spotlessly clean streets filled with cyclists, clear rivers, landscaped mountain trails and the like. Ljubljana’s waste processing and recycling centre is one of the largest and most modern in this part of Europe. Although Slovenia is still a long way from completing its green transition, particularly when it comes to transport – with most households still using two or more motor vehicles – there is extremely high awareness that radical lifestyle shifts are inevitable and that these changes will impact the lives of each of us and have to be made relatively quickly. The strength of the sense of responsibility towards the environment among individuals in Slovenia is evident at the start of each spring, when local tourist organisations, associations of volunteer firefighters, pensioners, fishing clubs, divers, mountaineers and others from the non-governmental sector organise nature clean-up campaigns. In just a few hours, thousands of people do something useful for nature while socialising and, most importantly, remove from apparently clean forests tons and tons of rubbish discarded decades ago, before municipal waste collection became so well developed and environmental awareness wasn’t as high among Slovenians.

Slovenian companies and households were so enthusiastic in the construction of small solar power plants that the state had to stop issuing subsidies

Although no green party has existed in Slovenian politics for three decades, like many Western countries, the majority of important political parties have programmes that place a great emphasis on issues like environmental protection, climate change, energy and energy transition issues, renewables, a circular economy and ESG standards. In its coalition agreement, the government led by PM Robert Golob, a former director of energy company Gen-I, has devoted a lot of space to dealing with these issues.

The main goals and priorities of the current ruling coalition include accelerating investments in renewables, ensuring energy security, reducing fossil- fuel dependence and thus reducing the need for energy imports. Priorities also includes support for the development of new technologies that contribute to climate neutrality and reforming the collecting and spending of financial resources intended for energy and ecology. One of the main tasks is to modernise the national energy and climate plan with a clear timetable for achieving certain energy and climate targets in the period until 2030.

It comes as no surprise that the government of a former electricity company boss announced the lifting of administrative barriers to the construction of solar power plants. State support and subsidies for district heating systems are also achieving positive results in smaller rural areas, in terms of cleaner air and major reductions in heating costs. The business sector expects a lot from the promise to relax regulations governing the construction of renewable power plants. Slovenian companies and households were so enthusiastic in the construction of small solar power plants that the state had to stop issuing subsidies. The amount of electricity produced on the roofs of Slovenian households has become so large that it is seriously overburdening the existing electricity distribution network. State-owned electricity companies are thus largely focused on modernising the network and increasing its capacity.

Slovenia’s rapid electrification has raised the politically sensitive issue of constructing another nuclear power plant, with the construction of a new one set to be decided in a future referendum.

Efforts to preserve the environment for the generations yet to come bring with them heavy demands and changes that often won’t be pleasant. Anyone who has attempted to drive an electric car in Slovenia for a few days understands that the mode of transport is shifting radically, as is the mindset when it comes to using cars. So-called “range anxiety” for EV drivers serves to illustrate that, in the future, they’ll be forced to also think more about the they consume energy in other areas of life. Efforts related to the social green transition are already reflected in Slovenia’s social life to an extent. As in many countries in the West, part of the society actively resists new trends, which creates a platform for the emergence of political options that’s aren’t overly committed to environmental targets. We experienced this in Slovenia the last time the government announced a ban on heating with wood. According to that legal proposal, it wouldn’t be possible to obtain a building permit for houses projected to utilise a wood-burning stove. The proposal, which was of questionable merit in a country 70 per cent covered by forests, met with strong opposition resistance that compelled the government to modify it. This was a clear warning that caring for a clean environment has its price, and that the price of clean air must not, under any circumstances, take the people’s last euro for a loaf of bread.

NUCLEAR

Slovenia’s rapid electrification has raised the politically sensitive issue of constructing another nuclear power plant, which will be decided in a future referendum

PRIORITY

The main goals and priorities of the current ruling coalition include accelerating investments in renewables, ensuring energy security and reducing fossil-fuel dependence

POLITICS

Although no green party has existed in Slovenian politics for three decades, the majority of important political parties have programmes that emphasise environmental issues

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