Slovenian govt, NGOs welcome bolder EU greenhouse gas emissions goal

Ljubljana – The government and environmental NGO have welcomed the EU summit’s decision to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by at least 55%. The Environment Ministry believes the goal is realistic, whereas the NGOs would like it even more ambitious. A climatologist meanwhile says that for a true global impact, the EU should get China and the US on board.

EU leaders reached agreement on Friday on a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2030, taking the cut from 40% now to at least 55% compared with 1990.

“The goal is realistic and feasible if we make maximum efforts in all sectors. We expect to have the biggest challenges in transport,” Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak said on Friday.

He explained this is due to some of Slovenia’s specifics, most of all its being a transit country and having relatively low fuel prices.

He believes Slovenia could reach the goal if a social consensus is reached that government climate policies must be responsible to all subsystems.

Sectors such as energy, transport, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry must aim to reach the climate goals, but they also have to stay competitive, create new jobs and gross added value.

“A responsible climate policy is thus much more than just meeting climate goals,” he told the STA.

He said there were many projects in the Slovenian economy which aim to lower emissions, while the government’s duty is to take measures which aim at decarbonisation.

Here he highlighted a concession contract recently signed to build several power stations on the river Sava.

Slovenia is also finalising its long-term climate strategy until 2050 and the government is expected to discuss it in early 2021.

He said the climate change fund was an important financial instrument. The ministry is updating the plan to better direct funds in projects which aim at cutting the emissions, including in energy renewal of buildings, investments in renewables and in transition from roads to railways, circular economy, etc.

Less happy with the new goals are the NGOs, with Barbara Kvac from Focus saying it was a step in the right direction but could be more ambitious, at 65%, which could still be done as EU legislators continue talks.

“We expect the final agreement to heed the warnings from science and set the EU the goal in accordance with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warning to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

She also believes bolder and faster action entails lower costs of climate crisis measures and a number of positive effects such as green jobs, cleaner air, accessible public transport.

Similarly, Andrej Gnezda from Umanotera warned the agreement is not compatible with scientific facts and the Paris Agreement.

“The question if it is feasible or realistic is not important because this is the minimum we have to achieve if we want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.”

While all sectors will have to contribute to the goal, Kvac and Gnezda indicated Slovenia would have to be more ambitions in phasing out coal.

They said the TEŠ coal-fired power station should be closed by 2030. Gnezda also believes the set goal will be impossible to reach in transport.

Slovenian climate expert Lučka Kajfež Bogataj said the 55% goal came as no surprise, having a basis in science and having been widely discussed in the EU.

“It’s high time this was adopted,” she said, stressing the years between 2020 and 2030 are decisive to take action, 2050 will be too late.

Commenting on the view the EU goal should be more ambitions, she said the 55% figure would be ideal on the global level.

“Europe considers itself a major player, but it actually isn’t.” She believes the EU could decide on an 100% goal and send out a wonderful message, “but to be honest, we need China and the US” to secure a true impact.

Kajfež Bogataj also thinks TEŠ should be closed by 2030, or else Slovenia will not achieve the EU goal.