The subject of “Smart Green Cities and Green Policies” brought together experts from different sectors and regions for a discussion at the third edition of the largest Green Transition Forum in the CEE countries – Green Transition 2023.
Chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council Georgi Georgiev described the changes in the capital’s public transport as a “digital revolution”. We managed to retire the paper ticket and it became history, he pointed out, citing the environmental effect of the unpunched ticket – a 1,200 km ticket. “From 6-7 thousand e-tickets sold, today we have hundreds of thousands per month. We have also introduced new services that make public transport more efficient for citizens and more convenient,” he added.
Troyan Mayor Donka Mihailova emphasized on the approach to the utilities. She announced that the National Association of Municipalities will once again declare that it does not accept the Water and Sewerage Act, which the state is trying to submit to parliament. “We disagree and are prepared to go all the way, if necessary to the Constitutional Court, for this law not to be passed.” She said an attempt is being made to kill the municipal companies, nationalise the service and have the state manage water altogether.
Sylvia Georgieva, Executive Director of NSORB, described the upcoming changes in the cities as inevitable. She noted the efforts of local authorities for energy efficiency and pointed out that Brezovo municipality is already 80% energy independent in terms of public buildings, as it has its own RES installation. “It was difficult, but when the mayor doesn’t give up and has the support of the City Council, things happen easily,” she said. What municipalities are already working on and will be encouraged in the next mandate is investment in their own renewable energy sources (RES) to ensure the energy autonomy of municipal buildings, Georgieva added.
Municipalities should be a serious player in the energy market, Georgieva said and pointed out that everywhere in the cities where there is public transport, it is electrified. Municipalities are already preparing for the introduction of hydrogen buses. Clean air, a green urban environment and urban agriculture – these are the green policies that will develop the municipalities, said the chairman of the NSORB. According to Georgieva, these will be the tasks and policies, spelled out in detail, that the new local leaders will receive as soon as they are elected at the end of October.
Gabrovo is part of the mission for climate-neutral cities and by 2030 the city should be climate-neutral, said Maria Radoycheva, chief expert at the Directorate of Infrastructure and Ecology, Gabrovo Municipality. She spoke about the efforts in this direction and expressed hope that the mission will be fulfilled.
Prof. Sylvia Ilieva, Director of the GATE Institute at Sofia University, talked about the use of data and the projects that are underway, such as the “digital double of Sofia”, data spaces and the concept of the “15-minute city”. “Правим цифров двойник на София – започнали сме с район “Лозенец”, като симулираме процесите и разиграваме сценарии”, посочи тя. In this platform the citizens can see if a policy is taken – what would be the consequences. This is something that has been started as a pilot in Sofia, but is applicable in every city where there is a comprehensive approach to the management of the city, said Prof. Ilieva.
In terms of smart cities and green policies, municipalities are the leader, said Arch. Lyubomir Georgiev from “Vision for Sofia” and pointed out how he thinks things can improve. There are a lot of strategies, plans, etc. in Sofia Municipality. documents, but they are not integrated to work together, he commented and also noted that very often things remain on paper.
Financier Martin Zaimov, who is also the chairman of the Bulgarian Electric Vehicles Association (BAEVA), directed the audience to philosophical reflections on smart cities and green policies. “We don’t need to rush. We need to understand what is going on,” he insisted. Language is key to understanding things, Zaimov noted. “In this seemingly fast-paced world, we need to think,” he stressed and appealed, “Please think of humanity, because this is a thought for yourselves.”