90 public figures sign open letter against new oil plant in Ida-Viru County ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Enefit oil plant. Photo is illustrative.
Enefit oil plant. Photo is illustrative. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Ninety Estonian public figures, opinion leaders and creative persons are turning to the government with a public letter, asking it to revoke the building permit for the new Enefit282 oil plant and pull state support for the project. ERR News publishes the address in full.

In the name of the future and clean environment of people living in Estonia, we turn to the Government of the Republic with a request to revoke the building permit for the new Enefit282 oil plant and pull state support for the project.

We see the future of Estonia as a knowledge-based eco-state where modern technologies and innovative solutions support a healthy, sustainable and diverse environment. We seek to maintain our way of life in harmony with nature that is largely characteristic of Estonians. We want everyone in Estonia to have access to clean water, air and land.

That is why we expect the state to support and develop solutions to ensure future generations a livable environment and for the country to achieve climate neutrality – where our collective greenhouse gas emissions would not exceed our ability to sequester carbon, mostly in woods and swamps.

Exiting one crisis, we are faced with another and far more existential one. Climate change is already affecting the entire world in the form of extreme weather. We can clearly see that Estonia is not untouched by these effects. What are our investments in such a situation? Recent international climate and environmental agreements are a clear sign of where the world is headed.

In the shadow of the emergency situation, the government decided on March 27 to support the construction of a new oil plant with €125 million. An investment parallel to which plans for a new pre-refinery are being discussed that continues to support the Estonian oil shale industry that has already saddled us with one of the highest carbon footprints per capital in Europe.

Therefore, the investment is in direct contravention of the European Union's climate protection strategy, even though Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has publicly promised to invest in mitigating climate change.

The construction of the new oil plant violates section five of the constitution, according to which Estonia's natural resources constitute national wealth that needs to be used sparingly. The construction of an oil plant clashes with sustainable development goals and obligations pursuant to the Paris Agreement, inevitably raising the question of why invest in yesterday.

The oil plant constitutes investing taxpayer money in a high-risk project for a very long time. The world market price of oil can be very unstable as demonstrated by the sharp price drop we saw in the coronavirus crisis.

Turning oil shale into oil might not be economically sound in the long perspective. On the one hand, extracting oil shale is becoming more expensive due to salary advance and the need to mine it from increasingly hard-to-reach locations. On the other, there is great uncertainty concerning future taxation of fossil fuels that does not necessarily depend on Estonia. Using oil shale to generate power is no longer competitive in the conditions of emissions quota trading. The same fate could befall shale oil.

Additionally, it has not been convincingly shown that the new plant would not harm the environment of Ida-Viru County residents. Rather, it is to be believed that the new oil plant, similarly to the oil shale sector in general, will contribute to the destruction of natural environment and negatively impact air and water quality in the region (as reflected in several studies on the health effects of the oil shale sector by the Praxis Center for Policy Studies et al.).

We already know that residents of Ida-Viru County have more health problems than people elsewhere in Estonia. The county undoubtedly needs new investments and jobs but not the kind that contribute to the oil shale industry that is responsible for a good part of Estonia's greenhouse gas emissions and is neither sustainable nor economically feasible for the aforementioned reasons.

Estonia needs investments to support retraining of people employed in the oil shale sector and for new jobs in non-fossil fuel energy or other sustainable fields.

It is the government's task to come up with a strategy for reshaping life in the region fairly by gradually weaning it off fossil fuels. The €125 million in question could be used for just that. Just as a committee of experts was assembled to address the coronavirus crisis, the help of experts needs to be sought to find an optimal solution for Ida-Viru County.

The UN Climate Panel's report is clear in that the global economy absolutely needs to be changed if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change. We stand on the precipice of crucial decisions on which hinges the possibility of human life in just a few decades' time.

A study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (English summary on pages 8-9) commissioned by the Government Office in 2019, finds that "the longer we postpone strategically important decisions and measures, the more complicated and expensive achieving the climate neutrality goal and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will become."

One of the lessons of the coronavirus crisis is that rapid change thrust upon us by whichever crisis very seriously affects the lives of a great many people. Instead of contributing to the severity of the next crisis, we should do everything we can to prevent it.

It is understood that making the necessary structural changes is not easy. That is why we firmly demand that the Government of the Republic honor international agreements in its actions and adopt responsibility for our environment and that of future generations.

We want Estonia to quickly move in a direction that would make it an example for the entire world in terms of innovative solutions and balanced environmental policy. By abandoning the short-sighted plan for a new oil plant, the government can demonstrate responsibility for the future of the environment in Estonia. Time for avoiding the worst-case scenario is running out.

Signed

Laura Kuusk, Terje Toomistu, Maarja Kangro, Hasso Krull, Kiwa, Piret Karro, Minna Hint, Liis Jõhvik, Margus Vihalem, Anne Kull, Siim Preiman, Margit Säde, Pire Sova, Ene-Liis Semper, Sigrid Viir, Jaanus Samma, Marika Agu, Piret Räni, Ivo Upan, Mihkel Kunnus, Anneli Palo, Roman Fokin (P.I.Filimonov), Olga Temnikova, Kristjan Mändmaa, Gea Kangilaski, Jaan Tootsen, Daniele Monticelli, Priit Tender, Heli Piisang, Aet Annist, Kajar Pruul, Rein Kuresoo, Kristel Vilbaste, Kirke Kangro, Kaspar Kurve, Rein Raud, Marika Alver, Jüri Kolk, Anastassia Tuuder, Camille Laurelli, Marek Tamm, Katarina Meister, Nika Kalantar, Merle Tank, Maris Jõgeva, Tanel Rander, Maiu Lauring, Martin A, Noorkõiv, Kadri-Ann Sumera, Peeter Laurits, Margus Ott, Aleksander Laane, Indrek Vainu, Anna Vainu, Kadri Aavik, Jaan Tätte (juunior), Reet Varblane, Marge Monko, Lisette Kampus, Aveliina Helm, Marko Kaasik, Maria Kapajeva, Madis Ligema, Anneli Kuusk, Laura Põld, Katrin Hallas, Kristel Habakukk, Teele Pehk, Indrek Koff, Johannes Säre, Jürgen Rooste, Grete Arro, Maris Hellrand, Darja Popolitova, Indrek Köster, Berk Vaher, Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes, Marta Vaarik, Aro Velmet, Francisco Martínez, Corina L, Apostol, Indrek Mesikepp, Jaan Kangilaski, Henri Hütt, Märt-Matis Lill, Elin Sütiste, Eva-Maria Sumera, Kairi Niinepuu-Mark.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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