As Darko Bicak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, to be more specific, the Regional Energy Agency of Northwest Croatia (REGEA) was one of the partners in the Interreg Europe LC DISTRICTS project, which gave life to Karlovac becoming one of the first cities in Europe of this kind.
The goal of the project was to intervene in the selected strategic document in order to take a step towards the decarbonisation of city districts as we move towards a greener future. As was pointed out, in partnership with the City of Karlovac, the aforementioned agency managed to tale a significant step forward in the overall decarbonisation process by dealing with energy and climate elements in spatial plans.
A brave political decision
“In cooperation with the cities of Northwestern Croatia, with the City of Karlovac as a leader, we recognised spatial plans as one of the key policy documents that can be a trigger or a brake on the decarbonisation of neighbourhoods and cities. Spatial plans are in firmly the hands of local and regional authorities and can be considered as a tool to encourage this transition. Together with the city officials, we decided to develop a plan for a district that will be sustainable, energy efficient and resistant to climate change,” they stated from REGEA, headed by director Julije Domac, adding that choosing to head down this particular path was a brave political decision because it meant a sharp change in the current practice. REGEA made all the necessary analyses and suggested how the measures that already existed in the action plans for energy sustainable development and adaptation to climate change (SECAP) of the City of Karlovac should be implemented in the overall spatial plan.
The pilot project itself was designed for the area of the Luscic Urban Development Plan zone. After the initial analyses, REGEA proposed a series of measures to ensure the low-carbon development of the district and its resistance to the effects of climate change to the local powers that be in Karlovac. A process of change followed, in which all city offices, city-owned companies, the academic and business community, non-governmental organisations and individuals were involved.
The result of the process was a spatial plan that was approved by the City Council and which, as the first in all of Croatia, and probably among the first in Europe, paves the way for the sustainability and resistance of a neighbourhood to the constant threat of climate change.
Some of the key features of the wider Karlovac plan are a complete ban on fossil fuels for heating purposes – no natural gas network is foreseen, energy for heating will only come from district heating or heat pumps (which is currently above the national standard in the use of renewable energy sources), and nature-based solutions regarding adaptation to climate change will be encouraged. All of this was done by REGEA in cooperation with the City of Karlovac as part of the wider European LC District project.
Cooperation with ministries
Participation in the LC Districts project enabled the REGEA team to gain insight into good practices from Sweden, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. Karlovac, led by Mayor Damir Mandic, therefore represents a pioneering venture here in the Republic of Croatia and will serve as an example of decarbonisation for other city districts throughout the country.
REGEA is now working with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Spatial Planning and Construction to help them implement the steps learned during this process into strategic documents with the aim of facilitating the energy transition, adapting to the effects of climate change and increasing the resilience of local or regional self-government units.
“Even though this may only be a small step at the level of the overall work which lies ahead of us, it’s certainly a big one, as it represents the first successful implementation of decarbonisation in a spatial plan”, they concluded from REGEA.
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