European Union heads of state and government on Thursday agreed on a target to reduce EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said it is important each country's circumstances are considered.
On Thursday night, the Council also reached a final agreement on the EU's next seven-year budget and relaunch plan, spokespeople for the Estonian government said on Friday.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said setting a new EU-wide target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is very important in order to achieve climate neutrality in Europe at a more reasonable pace by 2050. The Council will return to the issue in the spring to provide further guidance before the European Commission presents legislative proposals in June 2021.
"We need to carry out the green revolution in a smart, affordable and realistic way and turn it into a strategy for the sustainability and growth of the economy. The transition must also take into account the specificities of countries and industries and the current dependence on fossil fuels. It is important to ensure a level playing field with non-EU producers," the prime minister said.
He said it is very important that 30 percent of the future long-term budget and the relaunch plan together are directed to the investments necessary to achieve the climate goals. Estonia has a total of €3.3 billion for activities to reduce environmental and climate impact. This also includes support in the amount of €340 million from the new Just Transition Fund, which is necessary support to achieve changes, especially in Ida-Viru County. Last week, the government decided on specific directions to support the green revolution and technological transition throughout the economy.
Estonia's national goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 70 percent by 2030. According to the data for 2019, Estonia has already reduced emissions by 62 percent compared to 1990. Nevertheless, Estonia's carbon footprint per capita is the fourth largest in Europe, which is why it is necessary to continue working.
Ratas welcomed the final agreement on the EU's next long-term budget and relaunch plan and hoped that the necessary procedures would be completed quickly so that the budget could be implemented from the beginning of 2021. "This is a very important agreement for the people of Estonia and all other member states. This will give the people and economy of Estonia and other European countries additional confidence in the future and significant support for overcoming the crisis," the prime minister said.
"2021, the year when the new seven-year budget period starts, must become Europe's year of economic recovery and enlivenment as the health crisis eases and the vaccine arrives. New investments and reforms will help us revitalize the European economy, secure jobs for our people and create a greener and more digital future," he added.
On Thursday, the Council discussed joint efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed recent announcements on the development of working vaccines and the European Commission's work to secure them for EU member states. State authorities and the healthcare system are preparing to start vaccination as soon as the vaccines arrive in Estonia. The first vaccines may receive an EU marketing authorization by the turn of the year and deliveries to Estonia are expected in January.
However, the Council notes in its conclusions that the arrival of vaccines does not immediately mean the end of the pandemic and that the epidemiological situation in Europe remains a matter of concern.
EU heads of state and government on Thursday approved proposals to further strengthen strategic transatlantic relations with the United States, based on common values and interests.
The Council called on Turkey to ease tensions and decided to impose further restrictive measures against illegal drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Council also decided to extend economic sanctions against Russia for the next six months.
On Friday, the leaders discussed the EU's relations with its southern neighbors, security issues and the fight against terrorism. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen briefed the leaders of the member states on the negotiations with the United Kingdom on future relations.
An euro area summit is also taking place on Friday with a focus on the next steps for the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union.
Estonia's views are represented at the Council by Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, as Prime Minister Juri Ratas will be in self-isolation until Saturday as he came into contact with a person who later tested positive for coronavirus last week.
Editor: Helen Wright