The Youth for Climate Justice Slovenia organised a roundtable discussion on decarbonisation, which took place on 3 February 2020 in Ljubljana. At the centre of the debate was the National Energy and Climate Plan (NEPN), a long-term national strategy to decarbonise society and curb climate change, focussing on those areas that are most problematic in Slovenia and where, according to the NEPN draft, there is the greatest opportunity for improvement of the plan. The panellists included Mr Stane Merše, MSc, Head of the NEPN Consortium (Energy Efficiency Center) and independent experts, Mr Marko Peterlin from the Institute for Spatial Policy (IPoP), who contributed to the debate with in-depth reflection on transport policies, Mr Andrej Gnezda from Umanotera, discussing the role of industry, Dr Bojana Bajželj of the University of Cambridge, who situated energy and climate plans within the field of agriculture, and IRI UL project manager, Mr Jure Vetršek, MSc, who contributed to the discussion on the required and potential systemic changes.
In the discussion, Vetršek emphasized that NEPN is not ambitious enough in terms of material and energy efficiency. By 2050, carbon emissions should be drastically reduced – the remainder of our carbon budget, which would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, is about 700 Gt, while humankind is releasing about 1332 tonnes of CO2 emissions every second. In other words, for every inhabitant of countries like Slovenia, there are another five tonnes of CO2 emissions available per year, while the currently annually emitted amount is approximately 10 tonnes. Change can be achieved largely by changing production and consumption patterns: in industrialized countries, about a quarter of emissions per capita is produced by food-related activities, a quarter by transport, one fifth by buildings, and about a tenth by clothing. In the long term, change should be even more drastic: CO2 emissions per capita should be limited to about one tonne per year, which, in addition to changes in our behaviour and practices, will require profound systemic changes in carbon-free technologies.
The built environment is responsible for half of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and use of raw material in its lifetime, which is why it is one of the key areas in which the European Union is trying to implement change in relation to energy efficiency and circularity. At IRI UL, we address the challenges of energy efficiency in buildings and energy systems in several projects, funded by the EU programme Horizon 2020: DRIVE 0 (decarbonization of the EU building stock by enhancing a consumer centred and locally based circular renovation process), MOBISTYLE (health, indoor environmental quality and energy use), TripleA-reno (attractive, acceptable and affordable deep renovation by a consumer-orientated approach), U-CERT (new generation of energy performance certificates), X-FLEX (efficient integration of diffuse renewable energy sources), COMPILE (integrating community power in energy islands), and CROSSBOW (cross-border storage and dispersed production management).
New technologies and energy systems are only part of the solution – changes in our daily practices will also make a significant contribution to reducing our carbon footprint. Placing technology development in the context of society is therefore one of the key topics which IRI UL introduces into EU research and innovation projects. Using a people-centred development approach, the interaction between people and technologies are at the core of our activities, while people’s existing practices, needs and habits are the driving force behind the research-innovation process. In response to a roundtable question about possible immediate action to decarbonise Slovenia, Vetršek therefore suggested that a transformation of daily practices in the public sector could set a referential example of good practice in relation to the national strategy and plan.
Among other things, he proposed introducing temperature training, which questions our understanding of comfort in relation to the impact of the internal environment on our health. We already have a public sector example: the School of Economics and Business of University of Ljubljana experimentally introduced temperature training at the end of last year. Several University of Ljubljana buildings are included in our MOBISTYLE project as demo cases – the project develops and implements solutions that address both, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, as well as well-being and health of building occupants.
In the discussion on systemic changes, Vetršek also questioned our understanding of value: the only real (physical) basis for value are raw materials and energy, so the monetary system should be tied to them and to the quality of the natural environment through e.g. biodiversity. A representative of the CEU IJS also agreed that it would be necessary to tax the exploitation of natural resources. As a possible way to connect resources and energy to a value exchange system, mag. Vetršek suggested a so-called carbon “universal basic income”, e.g. 1 tonne of CO2eq per year and per resident, which could be used for transport, food, accommodation, or recreation. In practice, such a UTD would have several impacts: a significant reduction in living space and heated floor space, maintenance and repair of all the objects we use, frequent cycling, a car with a lifespan of 50 years, the value of physical labour, and social structures that enhance collaboration instead of competition.