Organizations: Estonian government shale oil goals contradict EU agreements

Pellets of oil shale ash.
Pellets of oil shale ash. Source: ERR

24 European civil society organizations have sent an inquiry to the European Commission pointing out that the Estonian government's plan to expand its shale oil industry contradicts international climate and environmental agreements the government has signed with the European Union.

On March 27, the Estonian government allocated €125 million in share capital to state-owned energy group Eesti Energia for the establishment of a shale oil plant and is currently discussing also co-investing in a €600 million pre-refinery to support the sector in processing shale oil.

The signatories pointed out that both decisions permit Estonia to ensure the continued use of the country's oil shale reserves and transition from producing oil shale electricity to producing shale oil, which is estimated to result in an increasing level of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Estonian government's actions and plans impede on meeting commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and conflict with both the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU's objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

These oil-related investments and plans severely contradict with the government's intention to apply for the Just Transition Fund (JTF), which paradoxically intends to ensure a fair socio-economic transformation to a low-carbon economy, the civil society organizations said, adding that this raises doubts in the effectiveness of the JTF and the appropriateness of the use of EU taxpayers' money.

The signatories also highlighted the fact that the investment decision was made during the ongoing pandemic, which raises questions about the priorities of the Estonian government to address the most urgent health and economy-related impacts and risks, as well as regarding the €295 million support from the EU to tackle these issues.

"The Estonian government's decision to invest taxpayers' money in the high-risk sector is unacceptable and contradicts EU goals, particularly with the present great need to use resources for resolving economic bottlenecks caused by COVID-19 and for ensuring a green transition," said  Elif Gunduzyeli, senior policy coordinator at Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E), one of the signatories of the inquiry.

The organizations are requesting an assessment from the European Commission regarding said contradictions as well as inquiring about specific measures the European Commission plans to implement to ensure that Estonia or other member states potentially receiving funds from the JTF will not use states' own resources or mechanisms to support contradicting goals.

Signatories to the inquiry include the Estonian Fund for Nature, the Estonian Green Movement, the Estonian Environmental Law Center, CAN-E, CEE Bankwatch Network and numerous other organizations.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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