The Riigikogu must adopt legislation to protect the climate and inform citizens about their rights and obligations to do so, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madis said on Tuesday. Time is running out if the state wants to avoid fines, she added.
The official pointed out in a report submitted (link in Estonian) to the Riigikogu that Estonia has already agreed to adopt obligations to protect the environment but has not passed the required legislation.
This means there is currently no plan about how targets can be met. Industry and citizens have not been informed about their obligations.
"According to the Constitution, most decisions on climate neutrality must be made in law," she wrote.
"If it is necessary to impose rules or restrictions on business, this must be done by law. If restrictions on someone's property are necessary, this can only be decided by law. If burdens or taxes are to be imposed, this means enacting a law. If the parliament deems it necessary to change the conditions of people's participation, this too can only be decided by law."
MPs will need to hastily adopt legislation if the state wants to avoid paying fines or missing its targets, the chancellor added.
Private individuals' obligations and rights must be clearly laid out by law in fields of mining, energy, transport, construction, housing, waste management and industry, she said.
"The necessary time must be given for any restructuring, which varies from sector to sector," said the chancellor.
Madise said Estonia has set goals in recent years to significantly reduce greenhouse gases and reach climate neutrality by 2050 but there is no clear roadmap for meeting these targets.
"The laws governing areas of life on which climate neutrality depends do not set clear standards for who must do what and when, or what to avoid. General rules are not appropriate, as no official can take the place of the Riigikogu in determining the grounds for restricting fundamental rights," she wrote.
Issues related to climate neutrality must also be regulated so industries required to meet the targets can do so.
"If an activity has to be phased out by 2030, it will require a major restructuring of the whole sector. Business leaders will have to find a way to shut down and workers will have to find new jobs, but time will also be needed for retraining. If there is an investor who wants to invest in a different type of industry from the current one, it will take time to find a new line of business and prepare for it," said Madise.
The Riigikogu must decide how to proceed, the chancellor wrote.
Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright