#EuropeanFootprints #WhatDoYouCareAbout stories for a sustainable future: Urban spaces and connections

Authored by David Klepej, Slovenia 

By 2030, it is expected that 5 billion people will live in cities worldwide. However, this increasing trend towards urbanization brings about several issues. Among these urban challenges are traffic congestion, the disappearance of green spaces, waste management, pollution, and the need to provide enough job opportunities, adequate housing, and resources such as transport and energy. At the same time, cities can be hubs of innovation, economic progress, creativity and social connections with other inhabitants. One of our big challenges for the future will be to balance out environmental and social sustainability with urban prosperity for all.

Coming from a small village in Slovenia with less than a hundred people, I was always fascinated by cities: how they bring together so many people of various backgrounds and beliefs, how they function, and how they find solutions to offer their inhabitants not only the necessities for life, but also the conditions to socialize, educate, innovate and generally prosper. I am therefore passionate about making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. 

Slovenia has received praise for its high standards in natural protection and sustainability. It is the first country awarded the Green Tourist Destination award, it ranks among the most sustainable countries in the world, has the highest share of its area under the European Union’s Natura 2000 programme (37,9 %), and is one of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots. Slovenian cities provide many good examples of sustainable and smart small- and mid-sized communities. Nine municipalities (17% of the entire population of Slovenia) are included in the Zero Waste network, the capital Ljubljana was named European Green Capital 2016, and many efforts are made for comprehensive urban renovations. Many cities in Slovenia are closing their centres for traffic to open up space for pedestrians and cyclists, are offering bike sharing systems (including electric bikes), and are enabling the economic redevelopment of city centres. 

I envision a future in which our cities will have a positive impact on people, the economy, nature and the climate. One of the main principles in achieving this is a better use and diversification of urban space and resources. To do so, we must build upon sustainable and diverse land use, responsible construction and maintenance, and the reuse and repurposing of all resources. At the same time, we must implement new technologies for smart governing, monitoring, and managing of the urban environment. 

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