Estonia to adopt loftier climate goals

Offshore wind farm. Photo is illustrative.
Offshore wind farm. Photo is illustrative. Source: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash

The Ministry of Climate has finished an updated version of Estonia's national energy and climate plan that includes more ambitious renewable energy and climate neutrality targets.

The draft of the new national energy and climate plan prescribes generating all power from renewable sources by 2030 and making Estonia completely climate neutral by 2050.

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) said this will improve Estonia's living environment and international competitiveness.

"Estonia's actions are geared toward our choices and activities resulting in a better life. A smaller environmental footprint is a competitive advantage. I believe that many people are already seeing how clean and renewable energy can be cheaper. It is also better for industry as such production is easier to finance. European export markets, if only Finland and Sweden in our region, are keeping an eye on environmental impact, asking about it," Michal said.

Kaie Kriiska, business segment sustainability project manager for SEB, said that environmental effects and risks will be considered when looking at companies' credit risk at the bank.

But 2030 is virtually around the corner. Data from the Ministry of Climate suggests renewables yield a little over 60 percent of heating and 30 percent of electricity production in Estonia. Kristen Michal is convinced that it is possible to cover Estonia's entire power consumption with clean energy by 2030. The minister said that the share of renewable energy has grown many times over the past decade, with Estonia coming in fourth in terms of the relative importance of renewable energy in the EU over the last few years.

"By 2021 compared to 2011, growth of the share of renewables in heating came to 40 percent, while it was 140 percent for electricity," Michal said, adding that terrestrial and offshore wind farms should allow Estonia to generate 100 percent of its power need using renewables by 2030. The minister admitted that a lot depends on the workings of the market, whether there are sufficient resources and construction capacity to finish offshore parks in time. The same goes for the power grid.

The draft of the energy and climate plan highlights seven fields: energy, transport, buildings, agriculture, industrial processes, waste management, land use and forestry. A total of 106 measures are planned for meeting the updated goals and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Kristen Michal. Source: Raigo Pajula/Office of the President

Michal gave an example from the field of transport. "We need to boost the share of sustainable modes of transport, use more biomethane and put in place measures for the use of electricity and hydrogen, as well as divert passengers and goods to the railroad."

Estonia seems to be aiming for tougher targets but also gave fuel sellers more freedom in how to meet their bioadditives obligation a few years ago. Michal said that while this has no direct link to the energy and climate plan, changes are in store.

"It is true that we are planning to make changes to reorganize the market, and keep a closer eye on fuel sellers hitting their targets."

If so far, fuel sellers have had to prove the fuel they sell has enough of a renewable component once a year, checks will happen twice a year in the future. Michal said that fine amounts will also be hiked. But all of it needs to be approved by the parliament first.

Members of the Riigikogu discussed updating the energy and climate plan a few weeks ago. Andres Metsoja, deputy head of the Riigikogu Environment Committee, said that there are a lot of documents and it is difficult to pinpoint which plan or regulation would entail actual obligations for Estonia. More so as positions are in constant flux during negotiations with other Member States.

Estonia's incoming climate law and the resulting debate could lend clarity, Kristen Michal believes.

"I believe we will have the first document based on which we can have a debate this year. Next year will probably be spent on that debate in the parliament. We have planned a year or up to 18 months for that debate as it concerns the entire economy and major sectors," the climate minister remarked.

Michal does not agree with those who suggest that Estonia should not be an over-achiever here or plot overly ambitious climate targets as it will simply make life harder and more expensive. The minister said people should rather think about the effects of climate change.

"It will displace billions of people, render some areas unfit for human habitation etc. For us, the question is how to adjust in this situation, think about how to render ourselves more climate-proof and what is our competitive advantage. That is what we are trying to phrase in our climate law."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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