Former environment minister: The newly-created ministry is too vast

Siim Kiisler in the Vikerraadio studio.
Siim Kiisler in the Vikerraadio studio. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While the new coalition's decision to put climate issues under the leadership of one minister was commendable in theory, the administrative area of ​​the newly-formed climate ministry is too broad in its planned scope, former environment minister Siim Kiisler (Parempoolsed) says.

Appearing on ETV morning show "Terevisioon" Tuesday, Kiisler said: "I believe the time was ripe in Estonia to create a climate ministry and this ministerial position, because more and more areas are becoming related to climate issues and climate policy. But how it was done is exactly a separate matter."

Kiisler, who was environment minister 2017-2019, when he was a member of Isamaa, said that the new ministerial post, held by Reform's Kristen Michal, is "a little bit overextended."

"Was it really necessary to place the fields of transport and housing under the Ministry of Climate remit?" Kiisler inquired. 

"Combining the environment and energy areas certainly made sense. At the same time, I wonder why, for example, planning – where we state that we want offshore wind farms, a nuclear plant, etc – is instead brought under the regional minister's remit."

The regional minister post is also an innovation, and will be held by Madis Kallas, himself the preceding environment minister.

The minister of the environment post itself has been disbanded.

"On the one hand, a lot has been piled on to the climate minister; an unreasonable amount, I would say, but the other way around, again... It is clear that a lot is being taken away from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, while it is too big a chunk that has been transferred [to the climate minister] at the moment," he said.

Kiisler conceded that Kristen Michal is one of the most resilient and capable of Estonia's politicians, but reiterated that the new ministry's areas of activity have been "a bit overdone".

"Green reform means many different things, and certainly bringing climate issues and energy together was definitely a very reasonable move. But the suite that has emerged overall is perhaps not the most reasonable on. I still get the feeling that it was somewhat of a surprise," he went on.

At the same time, Kiisler said that if the perception is there that in Estonia as few ministers, and politicians in general, as possible, in the ministries, is a good thing, in fact the reality is the reverse.

"Is it realistic to put all this on one minister's shoulders? There are only 24 hours in a day, for everyone."

In respect of the basis for evaluating the success of the new government's climate policy, Kiisler pointed out predictability and clarity of responsibility as the main metrics.

"The most important thing, and this has been stressed by business, is that there should be comprehensibility and pre-determinability of where we are headed; there should also be clear responsibility," he went on.

"While it has been said that the climate issue is a clear priority, it was split across several ministries – while now there is a clear person in charge, who we all look to for results," Kiisler said. 

"If our entrepreneurs can get to a solid investment environment with this, they will understand where our legal and legislative space is headed. If this is achieved, then the step will have been a positive one."

However, constructive activities may become threatened by the administrative reorganizations needed to accompany the creation of a new structure, he added.

"If such confusing things remain, this is to be feared when structural changes are made at the same time: On the one hand, they want to make cuts, while at the same time they want to make a lot of substantive changes to the law, so the concern now is how well it will all be handled."

As for the environmental issues of the new coalition agreement, the document is inconsistent here, in Kiisler's estimation.

"The coalition agreement is inconsistent. Some things are set out very specifically - for example, it says that a new law on the forest will be issued in September. I don't understand exactly that will entail, but it is a very specific promise. At the same time, when talking about environmental fees, which are very important in relation to how the circular economy is affected – there is a lack of clarity there. So, sometimes there are very concrete things but at other times things are very vague. This would be the same if I if I were active in that sector myself; I wouldn't understand what's going to happen, and that's a bad thing," Kiisler went on.

Kiisler said also that he hoped the Riigikogu will adopt a pre-existing forestry development plan, and criticized the actions of the previous administration's environment minister, Madis Kallas (SDE).

"It is unfortunate how the previous Minister of the Environment, Madis Kallas, in personally starting to introduce some small amendments there, blew open this process. I hope that there will be a return to the original agreement, which will be accepted now ... He ruined it that time, with his actions. I think that maybe they will accept it now."

In addition to the emergence of a climate ministry, the former ministry of economic affairs and communications will be replaced with an economic affairs and IT ministry to which structural units from the ministry of social affairs will be added.

The ministry of rural affairs, meanwhile, will be transformed into a regional ministry, with elements of the current finance, social affairs and economic affairs ministries to be appended to it.

The changes require legislative amendments and, along with the administrative and logistics tasks required, this means the new set-up is not likely to be fully operational till the start of next year.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

Source: Terevisioon

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