The European Union's "Fit for 55" climate package is expected to receive the Riigikogu's European Union committee's approval by the end of January, but parties involved say Estonia should have formed its positions for negotiations some time ago.
"The [Riigikogu] European Union affairs committee is planning to discuss the climate package at a sitting on January 24," Riigikogu spokesperson Merilin Kruuse told ERR on Monday. The committee will not discuss the package at any of their two sittings this week.
Committee deputy chair Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE) told ERR that Estonia's positions on the package will be confirmed by the end of January. Kaljulaid noted that it is package of extraordinary volume, which is why processing it in parliament should not be rushed.
"If we look at who all have been involved and what they have thought about the package, there are 130 pages of that," the committee deputy chair added. It has been discussed in both the environmental affairs committee and the economic affairs committee, several entrepreneurial organizations and environmental and nature conservation associations have also added comments.
"But this will not be the last time the Riigikogu will have to discuss this. We are currently heading into a period of negotiations and agreements," Kaljulaid said.
Government would like to see faster proceedings
At the same time, government representatives stated that the lack of defined positions makes it more difficult for Estonia to negotiate in the EU. "And for this reason, we would really need the state's primary views to be equal partners behind the negotiating table," said environmental affairs committee deputy chancellor Kristi Klaas at a state budget special committee sitting on Monday.
She said the European Commission's proposal this summer is just the foundation for negotiations between countries that also have to find an agreement with the European Parliament. "This means positions can change, which also means the state's positions need to be looked at again, they need to specified and supplemented in order to defend our views," Klaas explained.
Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar (Center) also pointed out that the package is not final and is only in the initial negotiating phase.
Since Estonia has agreed with the package's main goal, but countries have been left room to decide how to reach these goals, Estonia could correct the less appropriate targets, Savisaar said. "But in general, the package should improve our lives - the environment would improve, people's quality of life and health, economic competitiveness, Estonia's energy security. We are a smart people and we will manage," the environment minister said.
He added that the idea should be to stay in the framework of the package as much as possible instead of fighting every section of it. If the package is fragmented and any of its components are blocked, they could still be implemented at the EU level, where Estonia would not have as much say, the minister said.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Taavi Aas (Center) said at the committee sitting that the European Commission's initial package was very worrying for Estonia initially, but the government's current positions have left negotiating space in the more complicated situations.
The economic affairs minister said the most complicated sections of the package have to do with the transport sector, where ambitions have been high, but now there is even more pressure. Estonia is also worried about restrictions in the maritime sector and anything to do with infrastructure, Aas noted.
75 percent of EU member states have confirmed their positions
Kristi Klaas said it became clear at a meeting of environment ministers in December that some 75 percent of EU member states have already confirmed their views on the package and can discuss their major concerns.
Additionally, a group of countries is also drawing up a proposal on amending the current emissions trading system to curb the large fluctuations on CO2 quota prices. Since Estonia has not confirmed its positions yet, representatives have not been able to contribute in those negotiations, Klaas added.
"Meetings are taking place every week. Each week without us at the negotiating table is a week of us not being able to represent our interests," she said.
Estonia still hesitant on some positions
The government approved Estonia's participation in the EU climate package in November, but there is still no information on what it will end up costing the state.
"The government is planning to support the general concept of this package fully, but they have not considered what effect it will have on consumers and Estonian entrepreneurs. /.../ I do not think it is reasonable to go out with positions that do not actually protect the interests of our nation," said state budget special committee member Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Economic affairs minister Taavi Aas said the Estonian state is hesitant on some parts of the climate package. "It means we are hesitant, it means we do not support it in this form. We want more clarity. I also think it is very reasonable to conduct an impact assessment," the minister said.
Reinsalu added that the green transition is set to impact the futures of several sectors. "Transport, air transport and maritime affairs separately, it would affect shipping significantly, agriculture, forestry. The entire transport organization, then industry, the entire economy and certainly heating and electricity consumption," the former minister said.
Environment minister Erki Savisaar said there are proposals in the climate package that are unsuitable for Estonia. For example, it is not realistic that Estonia could lessen the amount of CO2 emissions in forestry and agriculture by 2.5 million tons. But these difference are hopefully cleared up during negotiations, where every country has their own interests.
"We must be constructive, we cannot go in and say we are opposed to it despite what you are offering and what your proposals are. In that case, we will no longer be at the table and our opinion will not be considered. For us to be at the table, we must offer solutions," Savisaar said.
As part of the European Green Deal, with the European Climate Law, the EU has set itself a binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. This requires current greenhouse gas emission levels to drop substantially in the next decades. As an intermediate step towards climate neutrality, the EU has raised its 2030 climate ambition, committing to cutting emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.
The "Fit for 55" package consists of 14 legislative initiatives, for which the government has approved Estonia's positions for and they now need the Riigikogu's European Union affairs committee's approval.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste