Ratas on EU's climate package: Estonia needs to stand up for itself

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Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Chairman of the Center Party Jüri Ratas said Estonia must stand up for itself in relation to the European Union's climate package because there is a difficult situation developing in several sectors. At the same time, he said that it is not reasonable to reject the package, because then foreign trade will be more complicated.

The presentation of the European Union's new climate package in Brussels has already given rise to conflicting views. The chairman of EKRE, former Minister of Finance Martin Helme, said the previous government agreed on red lines which Estonia does not agree with. If you have looked at what the European Commission has offered, are there any things that we cannot agree with or that we definitely need to negotiate?

The direction of climate neutrality was adopted by the previous government and this principle was even written into Estonia's 2035 strategy as a national goal for 2050. If we look at what is happening today, it is clear that we can see how the average temperature has risen since the pre-industrial revolution and man has undoubtedly played a role here.

We certainly need to start discussing various issues very seriously. How can Estonia achieve these theoretical goals at the moment, and I am absolutely convinced that they are very ambitious in some areas, which means that if we want to move towards climate neutrality, the user pays principle means that there will be a significant price increase in various areas.

For example, the head of Alexela has said that they developed biofuels in the hope that their use and biogas would be allowed in the future. But the commission has decided that the new cars sold in 2035 must be electric cars that do not emit CO2. He complained that Alexela would have to close its shop. We probably have to think about whether we need to build an oil plant and what will happen to our oil shale industry. The use of fossil fuels will essentially disappear.

That is why I say that this means very big changes throughout the European Union, but also in Estonia, and there are certain issues on which the Member States must now start negotiating and also point out their differences. Certainly, oil shale has been a very strong and big difference in Estonia.

When it comes to the various biofuels and their potential, and whether or not cars with internal combustion engines will disappear in 2035, I think that these discussions will be very difficult at the European Union level. But I think that the direction of moving towards climate neutrality, the direction of reducing CO2 emissions, is, of course, the right one. But we have seen that for each such step, there have always been compensation mechanisms at the European Union level, which will then help the various countries to make this transition.

People living in Ida-Viru County have certainly followed this news and are very worried. What happens next? Is the factory I'm working in going to be closed soon?

This is a perfectly understandable concern, and in this regard, I say that Estonia must now start these negotiations. If we are currently adopting the climate package presented by the Commission, it is clear that many economic questions need to be answered. What is this negative effect on the operating profit of these companies? Surely we need to be able to answer this question, what effect will it have on the oil shale industry? What does this mean for households in terms of decreasing purchasing power? So all these aspects must be considered by the state very carefully.

Martin Helme said that the Estonian state should simply reject the European Commission's offer.

I think that a simple rejection does nothing. It is better if Estonia is behind the table and is able to explain its positions and have a say in the issue of compensation mechanisms. That is how the European Union works. But it is clear that this is a very big change. And while we have talked about climate neutrality for a long time, it has never been the title. It needs real action, real steps, and in that regard, we can now see that the proposal is on the table. On the positive side of this climate framework, Estonia will continue to benefit from the modernization fund. But I agree that it is not just about the environment, it is also about the socio-economic side.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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