Kaljulaid: 2019 brought many good things but leaders must tackle climate

President Kersti Kaljulaid receiving her Estonian Association of Media Enterprises Friend of the Press award.
President Kersti Kaljulaid receiving her Estonian Association of Media Enterprises Friend of the Press award. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The outgoing year was a good one in many respects, President Kersti Kaljulaid said in an end-of-year interview with Postimees.

"In five years, Estonia has seen 63,000 e-residents emerge who are paying more in taxes here than is spent on that program. Our economy has been doing well also in others sectors. Our businesses have understood that now is the time to value GNP (gross national product), not just GDP (gross domestic product)," the president said. 

The head of state observed that there are more and more Estonian entrepreneurs opening new plants in cheaper regions.

"In principle, we are copying what the Scandinavians did in the years 1994-1995," Kaljulaid said. 

She highlighted Estonia's success in gaining a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, saying this demonstrates Estonia is a country which contributes to security.

"It was a good year for all of Europe because more people took part in the elections to the European Parliament than earlier. As a result of this a Commission has been formed that dares to be a champion of important decisions," the head of state said. 

"There's quite a lot of positive. At the same time, there are also things that are causing concern. Seeds that are not so beautiful have been put into the soil this year, and I don't know what their blossoms will be like in the future. For sure there are signs of danger in it. But people predominantly are good after all!" the president added. 

However, she also called on decision-makers to do more about climate change and be prepared to lead the discussion.

"Who says that in climate issues one small region, such as the Nordic and Baltic countries, is not able to find a solution that inspires all others? We tend to be afraid and say that we are too small and cannot do anything. In fact, it clearly appears from analyses that it's all possible, but if you don't delve into it, you won't know either. This could encourage also all those here who believe that nothing depends on us. We are the ones who could save this planet," Kaljulaid said. 

She said that with older people the problem tends to be that that they don't know that solutions exist and are doable.

"If you delve into it and look at the Nordic and Baltic space, then it's possible to be CO2 neutral and at the same time energy independent regionally. All analyses demonstrate that, if we move fast, this will create a market for our producers also elsewhere in Europe. Everything that we need for it is connections, a market regulated to be free, and for regulation in all of Europe to support market-based investment. It can be done without us having to significantly increase our national debt," Kaljulaid told Postimees. 

Talking about the plan to establish a shale oil pre-refinery in Estonia, the president said that investing in that project may end in a situation where we have to write it off, but it doesn't have to be this way, and we must not simultaneously close our market to green developments.

"It is possible even to apply market organization measures in such way that, when investing in capacities emitting CO2, we say that this is the state's irreversible expense and the market continues to be free. The question is, why we should be doing it and knowingly taking a very big risk that these investments will never pay off. Especially when knowing that the European Investment Bank has decided already that they will not take part in intermediate-cycle investments, it seems to me that maybe it would make more sense to move forward at once and quickly with investments oriented to the future," Kaljulaid said. 

The president said she disagrees with the notion that there is a one-to-one relationship between energy sector restructuring and jobs in Ida-Viru County.

"Certain jobs will disappear in the course of the restructuring of course, but now, when Estonia's economic growth is fast and the number of vacant jobs is high, namely Ida-Viru County stands at the forefront to offer new jobs. There are more vacant jobs there than workers. Therefore this is the right time to separate these two problems," Kaljulaid said. 

The president said she has talked about the matter with the director general of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, Meelis Paavel.

"It's clear that when people change sector, their productivity will not be as high at the beginning as when they are doing work that they are used to. That switch can be supported even with a pay addition. All solutions are in our hands, but we must want to make these changes. There is no contradiction in this. Acting promptly and time-critically, it is possible to save the world and also make money on it," Kaljulaid said. 



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Editor: Helen Wright

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