Climate Minister Kristen Michal (Reform) said on ERR's "Esimene Stuudio" that going green does not necessarily have to be at odds with economic progress and that the idea that a greener environment is also more economically beneficial is gaining traction.
"Economic growth and a green and clean environment are not incompatible. In fact, if we analyze global trends, our economic and export sector anticipates a cleaner [environment] and a smaller environmental footprint is a greater competitive advantage. Many businesses are pursuing this path. Importantly, financial institutions are already financing enterprises that are transitioning to cleaner practices," Michal said.
"What's good for the environment is also good for the wallet. Because our homes are energy efficient and we can control our consumption. The fact that our transportation is clean and thus less expensive is also good for us," he added.
Host Mirko Ojakivi asked Michal if thousands of jobs in Ida-Viru County will disappear due to the green revolution and where will these people find jobs?
"Ida-Viru County must be provided with better living standards. Obviously, this cannot be accomplished by simply turning off the lights and disconnecting the power. It is rather a natural process. I am aware some companies are already beginning to invest in the circular economy and are opposed to pursuing unsustainable practices. If new industries are coming in, our responsibility should be to make sure that if we can create clean energy as an input, that clean industries and new jobs will follow," Michal said.
Hundreds of billions of dollars of assets in the ground in Estonia
Michal emphasized that, in terms of the future of mineral resources, it is essential to recognize that Estonia holds an abundance of diverse mineral reserves.
"To put it simply, we still have hundreds of billions in assets. Mining will not begin tomorrow because the area is still being mapped and this wealth should be preserved for future generations. It means that there is an abundance of phosphorite, rare earths and numerous other elements. We have several ideas for the future but they all require meticulous consideration," the minister said.
Michal stated that road construction will continue in accordance with the state budget in the future.
When possible, efforts will be made to improve the condition of roads in terms of construction and development. "At the same time, no one should think that in a country with a decentralized population, for instance, we should not be building 2+1 highways; we are, but a great deal depends on financial resources and where the money comes from," Michal said.
Michal emphasized that it hinges on the car tax flow.
When asked whether the car tax is a wealth tax or an environmental levy, Michal pointed to the latter.
"I assume that vehicle capacity and potential emissions are still taken into account. So a climatic element would be counted in. It makes no sense to me that the more a vehicle is driven, the older and more damaged it becomes," he said.
Michal emphasized the importance of developing Rail Baltic despite the expense. "It is crucial for us from a geopolitical and security standpoint."
Michal: We are definitely on the same page with Kaja Kallas
The anchor also asked how big a surprise the invitation to join the government of Kaja Kallas (Reform) was.
"Perhaps I was not immediately prepared, but if you are a politician or a candidate, you must be prepared to carry out the policy based on your abilities and strengths. And when Kaja asked me to be a member of her team, I was happy to join them and I will do my best to ensure the success of this administration," Michal said.
Michal also said that he has not always aligned with Kallas. "Perhaps because I have been critical of the government, but this criticism was directed primarily at the activities of Tanel Kiik (former Minister of Social Affairs for the Center Party - ed.) who has long since been criticized," said Michal.
"However, when I consider how Kaja has led the Republic of Estonia and the European Union as a whole during the war in Ukraine, I see a strong, value-driven and liberal leader." And the fact that the Reform Party won the elections was largely due to Kaja's efforts and merit," Michal said. "I don't believe anyone else could have done it, so we are definitely on the same team."
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa