Environmentalists: Estonia needs strong climate law

Climate protestor at Toompea in Tallinn in 2022.
Climate protestor at Toompea in Tallinn in 2022. Source: Vladislava Snurnikova/ERR

According to an analysis commissioned by the Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and conducted by the Estonian Environmental Law Centre (KÕK), in order to create an effective climate policy, Estonia needs legal clarity and a strong climate law.

In order to achieve its climate goals, Estonia needs a climate law, which is based on science and includes clear climate targets as well as measures to ensure accountability for meeting them, the analysis, entitled "Perspectives on Estonian Climate Law," finds.

According to Kärt Vaarmari, legal expert at the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and one of the authors of the analysis, Estonia's current climate legislation is unclear and insufficient for meeting the country's climate goals.

"Estonia's climate targets are laid out in several different documents, which are often contradictory or outdated," said Vaarmari in a press release.

"It is not clear who is responsible for meeting the climate targets and there is no overall governance structure for climate policy. In such an ambiguous situation, it is extremely difficult to legally ensure that Estonia's climate targets are met," said Vaarmari.

"The experiences of several countries, which we examined while preparing the analysis, give reason to conclude that a meaningful climate law would give a comprehensive picture of climate policy and also provide certainty and clarity for decision-makers, ordinary citizens and businesses," she added.

According to the analysis, clearly defined climate objectives should be at the heart of any effective climate law. The analysis also underlines the need for a science-based approach, as well as the importance of accountability and the clear division of tasks and responsibilities.

"A strong, yet flexible, legislative framework is essential to mitigate the climate crisis," said Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) climate expert Piret Väinsalu.

Väinsalu explained, that a strong climate law should be both science-based and demanding. In other words, it ought to include measures to prevent climate targets being lowered, while also allowing for them to be increased if it becomes clear that the actions being taken are not sufficient to ensure global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The law should spell out how the responsibility for meeting the targets will be distributed among public authorities, and how the public will be involved in the making of climate policy," Väinsalu said.

Both the Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and the Estonian Environmental Law Centre (KÕK) consider the results of the analysis as one of the steps upon which to build further discussions on climate legislation and possible legislative processes.

When commissioning the analysis, ELF asked KÕK to examine whether, and in what form, the introduction of a climate law would be beneficial for regulating Estonia's climate policy.

The need for Estonia's climate commitments to be established at a legislative level was also highlighted this week by Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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