View of Maribor at sunset.

BLOG#5: Transition of Maribor to a climate-neutral city

Transition of the city of Maribor to a climate-neutral city

Given the ongoing world emergency, the current policies and orientations of the European Union and the fact that Europe is moving into a new model of energy development, the City of Maribor is striving to increase its ambitions in the area of transition to 2030 carbon neutrality in accordance with European guidelines for achieving climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

The famous heart-shaped road in the vineyards near Maribor

The City of Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia, with its about 100.000 inhabitants (115.000 in the urban area) and it is located ust a few minutes away from the border with Austria.

Maribor, caracterized by a humid continental, is surrounded by the green forests of Pohorje and picturesque wine-growing hills, and crossed by the Drava River, where lies Mariborski otok (this can be translated as Maribor Island). In fact, Maribor is a city of wine, well known in particular for its white wines and the famous Orange Wine.

Climate as a priority in the municipal agenda

The Municipality of Maribor aims to become carbon-neutral by 2040. This means striving to improve energy and material efficiency, increasing the share of RES, both of which will result in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. At the same time, the municipality will maintain or enhance carbon sinks and work towards increasing climate resilience.

Town Hall and Plague Monument on the Maribor Main Square

By implementing the measures of its SECAP (LEPK in slovenian), the municipality aims to achieve the following key objectives by 2031 (compared to 2019):

  • Reduce CO2 emissions by at least 20 % (2% per year);
  • Improve energy efficiency by at least 10 % (1% per year);
  • Achieve at least a 30 % overall share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption
  • Reduce CO2 emissions by at least 35 % in public sector
  • 0 % extra light heating oil in public buildings

The city of Maribor has so far succesfully adopted local climate and energy plan, other strategies, decrees, programs and plans, which address areas closely related to climate change and the transition to carbon neutrality, such as Ordinance on the air quality plan, the Integrated Transport Strategy of the City of Maribor, Transit Strategy of the City of Maribor to a circular economy, Sustainable urban strategy, Municipal environmental protection program, Cycling strategy of the city of Maribor, etc.

A number of goals and measures given in strategies were acomplished with active implementation, regular monitoring of the effects and adjusting the measures according to the effects led to a more sustainable, economically competitive, environment-friendly and climate-neutral development.

Data shows this pretty well as Maribor, between 2010 and 2015, achieved:

– 12% reduction in the municipality’s total CO2 emissions;

– 35% CO2 reduction in residential buildings;

– 21% reduction in emissions from heat use in public buildings.

The largest drop in CO2 emissions was recorded in the area of heat use in the residential and public sectors, as a result of measures taken to improve the thermal protection of buildings.

After 2015, the city officially defined its political agenda towards climate neutrality up to 2030:

  • modernization of buildings and public infrastructure
  • continuing the phase – out of fossil energy use
  • continuing the deployment of renewable energy sources
  • promotion environmentally friendly modes of mobility
  • engaging in sustainable forest and ecosystem management,
  • deploying of green and blue infrastructure and other essential climate-adaptive planning practices

A structure and an ecosystem built to support the process

To better address environmental issues, Maribor has worked to set an organization to support the projects and actions necessary to move towards climate neutrality.

In 2006, the City of Maribor created the public company Energap (“Energy and Climate Agency of Podravje“) with the aim to support the introduction of good energy management practices, advocate the concept of sustainability, provide information and guidance, and offer a number of other local services based on specific local energy needs. This company is considered the regional centre of knowledge and ideas around energy and it mostly works to support for the implementation of local/regional energy plans, to raise awareness on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and transport issues and to inform, advice or train on energy management issues.

Later on, in 2012, the City moved a step forward, setting up a joint municipal administration together with its neighbour municipalities (functional urban areas), called Joint Environmental Protection Service (SSVO). The Joint Environmental Protection Service (hereafter SSVO) is the administrative and professional body of the founding municipalities (Maribor and the municipalities of Duplek, Ruše, Miklavž na Dravské polje, Hoče-Slivnica, Rače-Fram, Lenart, Sveti Jurij in Slovenske gorice, Lovrenc na Pohorje ) in the field of environmental protection. This body mostly works on monitoring the environment and management of the environmental protection information system, preparation of measures, guidelines and recommendations in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation and informing, raising awareness and educating the public about the state of environmental protection and nature conservation and in relation to the provision of public environmental protection services,

Moreover, it can also count on a very dynamic university, the second one in the country by size and importance, making easier to help the gather the due competences.

First goal: improving mobility, cycling and walking capacity

The city focus has been in the past directed intensively on the creation of a modern system of public passenger transport, activating the potential of cycling and walking, efficient reorganization of the city’s cycling network infrastructure and the system of enabling mobility for vulnerable groups of the population. Through implemented mobility projects, which have been focusing on improving public passenger transport, the city is trying to reduce negative effects of CO2. Maribor is currently implementing projects in order to intensively deal with the decarbonization of last-mile delivery in the urban environment in terms of reducing congestion, gas emissions and noise in a strict city center. As part of the expansion of the pedestrian zone in the strict center, the city will provide residents an alternative for the delivery of last-mile shipments/cargo and establish a micro-consolidation center for transshipment of small to medium loads. The city already successfully limited the delivery outside the delivery time for motor vehicles with a new ordinance in the strict city center. By changing the ordinance there are now allowed only deliveries by electric vehicles in the strict city center.

There is visible active improvement of cities green mobility by installing cycling infrastructure such as new public bicycle rental stations Mbajk. As Maribor is developing strategies for implementation of slow mobility it also implemented pilot project in which it supplied regular electric bikes and special electric bikes intended for vulnerable groups, such as ttandem bikes, tricycles, cargo bikes and bikes for the transport of disabled. Bikes will be distributed to disabled associations and organizations. At the same time investments in the electrification of public passenger transport are taking place intensively together with developing of mobility applicationts that produce new digitalisation solutions for traffic improvement.

Mbajk- bike rental station

As the old city center is closed to car traffic, city offered residents and visitors an alternative offer of city passenger transport complemented by three electric mini-vehicles called Maister. Mini electric vehicles are driving in the pedestrian zone and the strict city center of Maribor. Transportation is free of charge for all passengers. The vehicle takes the paseenger anywhere within the pedestrian zone and it is accesible  in the old town.

Mini electric vehicle for pedestrian zone

The city recently introduced first park and ride zone. The aim of the park and ride zone is to offer residents and visitors alternative, whereby users have the possibility to combine the rental of a parking lot and use of city buses at a reduce price. The aim of this action is to offer lower prices for the use of public passenger transport and reduce the amount of traffic in the city center. An important addition in 2022 was the introduction of a state-of-the-art charging station for electric buses, which can charge an electric bus in five minutes.

State-of-the-art charging station for electric buses

Noticeable positive developments in the city have been fisible of urban mobility,  collective energy supply (heating), provision of locally produced food, urban green infrastructure, connection of the city with the Drava River, new micro-urban arrangement of some city squares, participation of citizens and environmental awareness.  A new area that city started to manage recently are heat islands and the preparation of local strategies and action plans with measures to mitigate the consequences of heat waves.

Square Glavni trg

An important step in the city’s history was closing of some city squares for traffic. The city has consciously decided to limit motor traffic in city center. An example of good practice is square Glavni trg, which was one of the busiest roads in Maribor. On average, approximately 18,000 vehicles traveled along the Koroška cesta, which runs along the edge of the Glavni trg, per day.

Nine lines of city passenger traffic also ran on Koroška cesta. It is one of the older parts of the city with old, listed buildings, which has been completely degraded by traffic congestion. Residents reported unbearable living conditions, and traffic congestion had a bad effect on economic activity both along the road and in the square. Access for motor vehicles is now allowed only for residents, delivery and intervention. Transit motor traffic was diverted to other roads. By opening the area to people and limiting the vehicle transit, the negative impacts of traffic on people and the environment were reduced.

Education and communication in schools and with youth to trigger behavioral change

Education and communication about climate change in schools in Maribor, Slovenia, are critical components in addressing environmental challenges and fostering sustainable practices among students. Here’s an outline of how education and communication might be approached:

Curriculum Integration: 55% of schools in Maribor are part of the Eco-school programme which supports the integration of climate change education into the school curriculum across various subjects such as science. The EcoSchool programme is an internationally recognised integrated environmental education programme designed to promote and raise awareness of sustainable development among children, pupils and students through their education and training programme and through active participation in the local community and beyond.

Workshops for kids and pupils: Implementation of activities to allow children to learn via intertaining and fun activities, such as hands-on learning activities, experiments, and projects related to climate change to engage students actively in the learning process.

Education and information programme for primary schools and kindergartens: the City invests on activities for the yonguest to allow them to encourage interest in environmental issues through practical examples and our own experience, to spread awareness about importance of saving energy, to aware pupils that every person and every right act contribute to the welfare of the community and to encourage teachers to incorporate energy related topics into their day-to-day activities.

Activities for schools in the field of sustainable mobility: Children in schools work to define their own mobility plans, using tools and resources to enhance climate change education, such as interactive simulations, multimedia presentations, and online platforms for sharing information and resources related to climate science and sustainability.

Communication Strategies: Develop effective communication strategies to raise awareness about climate change issues among students, teachers, parents, and the broader school community. This could include newsletters, social media campaigns, and school-wide events focused on climate action and environmental stewardship.

Teacher Training and Professional Development: Provide ongoing training and professional development opportunities for teachers to enhance their knowledge and skills in teaching climate change education effectively. This ensures that educators are well-equipped to deliver engaging and informative lessons on this critical topic.

By implementing these strategies, schools in Maribor can play a significant role in educating students about climate change, empowering them to become informed global citizens, and inspiring them to take action to address environmental challenges in their local communities and beyond.

The role of CLIMABOROUGH in Maribor’s process, waste at the heart

Within the Climaborough project, Maribor aims to additionally reduce production and CO2 impact by upgrading waste separation at the city level. To better adress environmental issues, waste company Snaga d.o.o., has in 2018  built a new Automated Sorting Plant for municipal solid waste with the capacity of sorting 52,000 tons of waste per year. As a complement to the investments in sorting capacity and in response to regulatory requirements regarding the maximum proportion of inadequate waste fraction in collected waste, an alternative approach is envisaged, which should lead to an increase in separately collected waste fractions. This will further reduce landfill waste, resulting in lower GHG emissions from biodegradable waste and lower methane emissions from older landfills.

Waste sorting plant

With implementation of new digital solution involving data collection and sensor technology the key will be to improve the efficiency of waste collection and management. Maribor will implement the socio-technical system based on combination of smart software and hardware (such as IoT sensors) that collect relevant data from the waste collection process and use it to improve citizen engagement in waste selection and differentiation at source. Specifically, with help of sensing devices that may use computer vision or  machine learning which is capable of identifying various waste fractions/types in the waste collection phase. With implementation of new socio-technical system city will collect relevant data from the waste collection process and use it to improve citizen engagement in waste selection and differentiation at source. The general public will be empowered by sharing and visualising process data and information, by facilitating proper communication, awarreness raising and education and thus reducing mixed waste production and improving waste sorting and recycling rates.


Deja Jurgec (City of Maribor)

Matteo Satta (ANCI Toscana)