Debate hears green path, circular economy a must for Slovenia
Speaking at the event in Ljubljana hosted by the newspaper Finance and BKS Bank, the minister noted that the new European Commission had set very ambitious and determined goals in the environment and transition to zero-carbon society.
"I'm waiting to see whether the measures, both legislative and financial, will really go into this direction," he said, adding that Slovenia did not have much of a choice given the developments in the EU.
"For us, a green path is a must because we are too dependent on foreign countries. Every country which wants to be sovereign will have to be as self-sufficient in terms of energy, food and waste as possible. This requires investments."
Zajc also pointed to the importance of circular economy. "Without careful management of raw materials, there will be no progress and those who fail to adopt circular economy will very soon become less competitive," he said, noting that major investments in this field were yet to be implemented.
BKS Bank management board member Alexander Novak said that banks were currently developing rules for environmental and social business practices, which they would have to follow when granting loans.
Banks and other financial institutions will also need to promote environmentally friendly investments, he said, adding that the role of the state would be important, as it would be able to increase profitability of green investments with subsidies and reduce profitability of "dirty projects" with taxes.
According to Novak, one in three invested euros go for green projects. "These changes will be a driving force of economic growth in the coming decades," he said, adding that such investments would benefit Europe as they reduced its dependence on raw materials it did not have.
Jonas Sonnenschein of the environmental NGO Umanotera said that the magnitude of the challenge represented by climate change demanded a comprehensive transformation of all social systems by the middle of the century.
"A gradual approach with small increases in taxes will not do. We need a determined turnaround," Sonnenschein said, and called for changes to the relevant legislation, public investments in infrastructure and green investments.
According to Zajc, the drafting of the national energy and climate plan has shown that, same as for the EU, carbon neutrality by 2050 is reachable for Slovenia.
But he warned that scientists claim that if the increase in global temperature is to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, Europe would need to reach carbon neutrality already by 2040.
"Although the EU is the most ambitious in the world, 2050 is too late. I doubt that we are able to reach carbon neutrality earlier," said the outgoing minister.
He added that it would be clear in the summer whether the EU could realistically raise climate goals by 2030, adding that the proposed "carbon border tax" was a very important measure, which would "not be simple", however.