Estonia no longer has a good chance of amending the European Union's Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) accord on climate targets, but it is still attempting to secure greater flexibility and disaster-related compensation mechanisms, Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas said.
"We are advocating for greater flexibility and the consideration of our previous positions: it is crucial for us to have some sort of compensating mechanisms in response to natural events, such as severe droughts, floods and forest fires," Kallas said in an interview to weekly Maaleht published on November 3.
However, Kallas stressed that it will be very difficult to achieve the amendments, as Estonia's mandate and positions were already handed over by the previous government and the initial agreement between the countries in the Council of the European Union has been reached. The negotiations with the European Parliament have already begun.
"Trilogues are ongoing, which in the case of the European Union means that we have mandated the Council to negotiate with the European Commission and the European Parliament," Kallas said. "Changing anything at this time, when there are more than 20 parties involved, is obviously very difficult."
Minister of the Environment said that the European Parliament's desire to set even more ambitious targets for the LULUCF sector than those agreed upon by the countries also makes it difficult to achieve adjustments during trilateral negotiations.
When asked why it is critical to change the LULUCF sector, Kallas said that the LULUCF sector is the most important factor in achieving the 2030 and 2050 climate goals. "No other sector can sequester carbon dioxide. We cannot, for example, drastically reduce energy or transportation sectors. The only way for us to sequester more carbon is to change our land and forest management."
Kallas said that he understands the industry's concerns that the LULUCF regulation would harm its competitiveness: "Of course, I understand their worries; however, as Estonian Employers Confederation Chair Kai Realo said, global transformation is inevitable and it is unrealistic to expects that the economy will continue to run its course in the current state through 2028 or 2030. So maybe some changes have to be made," he said.
"This does not mean that we encourage job losses. In my view, the primary focus should be on how to increase the value of wood. And to retain or even generate jobs. That ought to be our future!" Kallas added.
"Shipping logs or pulpwood or simply using biomass to generate electricity, is certainly not something we want to continue. This is especially true considering that the condition of Estonia's forests has seriously deteriorated during the last 20 to 30 years. In 2020, we became CO2 emitters for the first time, whereas our forests had previously acted as CO2 sinks," Kallas explained.
"As the Minister of the Environment for Estonia, I am responsible for defending the country's natural resources and biodiversity and I am glad that scientists from the University of Tartu have expressed similar view in their recent appeal," the minister added.
According to the LULUCF Regulation, the Estonian land use and forestry sector must store 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, up from the current amount of 0.5 million tons. The Estonian timber sector believes that this increase in the requirement to store carbon dioxide imposes significant restrictions on them.
Editor: Kristina Kersa