Evelyn Sepp: People's fears need to be heard in green transition

Evelyn Sepp.
Evelyn Sepp. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian Greens' co-chair Evelyn Sepp said that the party has so far lacked organizational capacity and its spokespersons credibility. It is necessary to listen to people's concerns and fears in the green transition, she said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show.

Sepp, who last actively participated in Estonian politics in the ranks of the Center Party more than a decade ago, said she wants to return to politics out of a sense of responsibility for Estonia. "Whether I am actually back is something time will have to tell. Recent events have happened very quickly also for me and been surprising. Let us see where it ends up," she said.

The Greens' low support rating is the result of a weak trademark that also makes it difficult to put in a good personal election result, while competition for the green worldview has become quite fierce, Sepp said.

The Greens have also been criticized for concentrating on a single topic. Sepp did not agree that this has been the case but said the conviction is largely to blame for the party's poor rating. "Those who have taken a moment to read the program have been surprised to find it is not bad at all. It covers all major topics, while we have been lacking in terms of organizational capacity, which translates into having few supporters. Charisma, professional character and credibility need to be improved when it comes to spokespersons."

Political parties in Estonia have quite a vague understanding of green topics, even though others have started adding them to their programs," Sepp remarked. "But people who really understand their importance or how they tie into other matters are still few and far between."

People's concerns need to be heeded

Sepp said that the green transition cannot be done in a top-down way and it is necessary to listen to people's concerns and fears. "We cannot hold it against people that they cannot see all ends of these steps. Defiance needs to be treated in other places and through other means. These boil down to involvement and the ability to listen, starting with rural libraries and ending with mental health issues. All are environmental topics in a sense," the politician said.

Asked about where the Greens stand on logging, Sepp said the number [annual logging volume in millions of cubic meters] needs to be five or six, which is also the only way of ensuring the sustainability of the timber sector and affiliated sectors.

"It is peculiar to think how the oh-so-green Nordics and their major companies are pursuing a kind of colonial policy here, to use a very strong word, which they can no longer afford in Finland or Sweden as it constitutes such a serious value conflict. But for some reason we here seem to believe it is a way for us to get rich. What we leave future generations is not money in the state treasury or the bank, it is living environment. Without it we will have nothing to give them," Sepp said.

Electricity should be generated using various renewable sources, which should be maximally diversified, she suggested, adding that a nuclear power plant is not managed power generation capacity that can be turned on or off at the press of a button. Still, Sepp said she understands people who sport a green mindset and still support nuclear power as its environmental footprint is smaller than that of alternatives. She also pointed to a lesson from the Ukraine war where concentrating massive generation capacity in a single area takes away the market potential of alternative ways of generating power and poses a major security risk.

Scales tipped in favor of Tallinn mayor in Center Party

Moving away from oil shale requires switching to innovative industry in Ida-Viru County. "There is preparedness there today, and looking at age-specific and social labor structure, also resources for switching to a service economy. I am also somewhat wary of this drowsy optimism we're seeing concerning various raw material surveys to suggest we might get a second Phosphorite War on top of our other issues in the coming years. I believe that is not something with the potential to unite the Estonian people."

Regarding Estonia's ruling coalition, Sepp said she hopes the sides take their responsibility seriously. "The main problem in need of solutions is that Estonians are so full of meanness. They are disappointed in so many things, their lives that they cannot see a way out. Whatever the nature of the conflict, this requires more attention that it has been paid so far," she said.

Asked whether the Center Party should have changed leaders after the 2023 general elections, Sepp said she believes so as it would have had a positive effect on the organization and been a clear signal of assuming responsibility. "The scales are tipped in favor of the Tallinn mayor in terms of capacity for action and having a certain vision in the Center Party today."

Evelyn Sepp also said that the government's current car tax plan is insensible, and that if Estonia wants to lay down a vehicle tax, it should be something with actual potential to affect attitudes and consumption. "But even then I would like to see the money go toward more than just patching holes," she remarked.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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