Former Estonian PM and member of the European Court of Auditors Juhan Parts sharply criticizes green transition steps, saying that we are headed into a controlled economy that will jeopardize the very foundations of the Western world and dial back people's fundamental freedoms and rights. Parts is also critical of Estonia's incoming climate law.
I caught the first public meeting of the Estonian Climate Council, which has been tasked with helping write Estonia's climate law. The situation today reminds me of the coronavirus period where all our hopes were suddenly on the scientific council. The state and society started carrying out the council's orders, with the parliament completely excluded from the decision-making process. There was an ongoing struggle between the council and constitutional institutions, which often remained hidden. Are we heading into similar territory?
Perhaps we should take a step back and look at what the climate law is. The draft bill's legislative intent document betrays it as a peculiar attempt at importing controlled economy. This claim is further reinforced by statements by the prime minister, climate minister and the Ministry of Climate's secretary general to which we can add the practical experiences of other countries.
An attempt is made to dress this up in rule of law principles by presenting orders in the form of laws. Climate targets can only be met through orders and bans. Next, you will have intermediate goals in different sectors, such as agriculture. However, the only way to reach those targets is by issuing orders. In the end, it is an attempt to channel consumption and reduce economic growth.
Should it prove impossible to reach the targets, they will still be there in climate laws, which is when the courts will have to decide whether the government or individual sectors are not doing enough to achieve the green transition. Such cases have already been tried in Germany. There will develop a new group of lawyers with close ties to activism who will have endless work. And there will be a sprawling bureaucracy for monitoring compliance with said bans and orders.
I have deep reservations in terms of whether Estonia should go down this path, considering the consequences. The most prominent of them is effectively ending the rule of law. And yet, the rule of law and attempts to achieve it have been one of the founding pillars of the Western world.
Such utopian economic goals were included in party programs back in the Soviet era, even though they were obviously not met. Now, we are trying to include utopian goals in legislation.
I very much hope that our society will find enough common sense to ask why would we do something like this, now that the legislative intent has been made public.
We have already made grand promises to Brussels of reducing CO2 emissions in several sectors. And the public does not know who will be deciding the measures through which these reductions will be achieved. Will there be groups of experts to hand down orders?
You are correct in pointing out that we have already made sectoral pledges. This begs the question of why legalize them? We have already promised the EU hundreds of pages worth of things.
Looking at the bigger picture, climate neutrality is a techno-economic pipe dream. There may be technologies to help solve problems, but dumbing climate problems down to this level is irresponsible, so as not to say criminal.
This is not a stab at the government in Estonia. The debate stems from Western societies. Just look at what we are being fed from Brussels or what is happening in the U.S.
The introduction to the climate law's legislative intent document includes the following sentence: "Everything is clear from a scientific point of view in this matter." This is precisely what Bernhard Shaw meant when he wrote that when science mixes with politics, all we get is politics.
I have gone to the trouble of reading thousands of pages of IPCC reports, not their summaries, which are presented via the press. They include a lot of uncertainty, a lot of data deficiencies, because climate processes take a very long time. Causal links are often unproven. Many socioeconomic effects and so-called proposed solutions are based on opinion rather than fact. I would emphasize this part – the solutions have not been scientifically evaluated. And they do not betray the end of the universe as we know it.
We must simply not allow ourselves to be brainwashed. That is how we end up with a controlled economy, limitations on freedoms and maximally primitive proposals as to solutions.
Estonia should not go along with it, while that's hard, because it is the Western mainstream.
And so we are left to try and adjust in a situation where the European Commission has pushed aside economic competitiveness and made the green transition its priority. There will be inevitable setbacks. We are already seeing positions changing and how there is much less optimism.
We are looking at European Parliament elections. We can see opposition to change gaining momentum in Member States. Will elections eventually cool down this enthusiasm?
The European public, and the American public to some extent, are enamored with the idea right now. But if we look at polls, matters of the environment and climate are not people's first priority. They are somewhere in the top five. We can bring the trend back down to Earth and look for sensible solutions to climate problems. And let us not deny that we have a climate problem. But it will take a while longer to find a sustainable solution.
We have witnessed an unprecedented telecommunications revolution in the last 20 years. But were there any grand goals, was there a scientific council to tell us that we need to stop sending telegrams and adopt smartphones? Or start using computers on a wide scale? It all happened by itself! We do not have good solutions to climate problems today, while we may have them in the future.
Recent technological solutions in energy, transport and industry are no better than their predecessors when it comes to their environmental parameters. Electric cars are the simplest example. If we look at the entire manufacturing cycle, their environmental foorprint is no lower than that of a car that has an internal combustion engine. And of course we should use vehicles that do not pollute the air as much if we can.
Or energy. Estonia is betting heavily on wind power that does not pollute the environment as much. But again, if we look at the entire manufacturing cycle, the climate positive effect of wind farms is highly questionable. We need to factor in the materials needed to make turbines, waste management, not to mention other environmental effects. Even the OECD has concluded that wind and solar power will hike network costs and are the most expensive energy solutions at the end of the day. We are spending trillions on adopting economically unfeasible technologies in Europe. Trillions!
Execution of controlled economy measures will not leave us with anything positive in terms of solving the climate problem as we are oversimplifying the problem. We are only looking at the moment CO2 emissions are created and pushing everything else to the side.
I would still come back to decision-making processes in Estonia. What is the danger in making every decision at the level of a group of experts?
It is indeed a dangerous practice. The coronavirus period example is often given. It was a kind of no-confidence vote against the democratic process. We have a parliament, government, ministries, while they are all supposedly ignorant.
It is an approach of replacing democracy with imported wisdom, a democratic degradation.
I will refrain from going into detail and just say that I have no faith in such councils. They amount to diluting democratic responsibility. Let us take the Estonian climate law which is being written by a council that will end up making the decisions and issuing orders. The Estonian farmer will be ordered to use less land and fertilizer. Or the council might order a Mustamäe apartment association to renovate its building. Such councils also produce endless reports, which often includes lecturing society. Many European countries have introduced such so-called monitoring systems, which work to perpetuate the disaster narrative.
So many claims have turned out false over the last 50 years. Manhattan was supposed to be flooded 20 years ago! There are endless examples of such claims scientists have made, not to mention politicians who dress themselves up as spokespeople for science to engage in scaremongering. We absolutely need to take the climate problem seriously as the very principles of the functioning of Western society are at stake.
There is another trend of which I have seen a lot over the last six years. All manner of international organizations need to be taken with a grain of salt. They can be ideologically motivated, and we need to look at what started them.
Ultimately, provided the Climate Ministry's Secretary General Keit Kasemets and Minister Kristen Michal will not shelve the draft bill after reading this interview, they will at least have to start thinking for themselves. Enough word clouds and polluting the public forum.
If we were to try and reduce this problem to the state of affairs in Estonian society, we are no longer talking about things as they are but rather trying to catch the wind on the meadow without hurting its feelings.
What does that mean? Should we say out loud that the final goal of the green transition can only be achieved through radical steps that must include limitations to basic freedoms? Simply put, will we be told what we can eat, where we can travel and which activities we can engage in in the future?
Yes, absolutely. We already are. We were talking about energy generation before, and we drew the conclusion that many technologies we have been promised are actually worse in terms of efficiency, price and convenience. Ever since the industrial revolution, every generation of technology has been more effective, convenient and cheaper than the last. Now, we are doing the opposite. A truly unprecedented experiment.
We can already see the effects of orders and bans on the one hand and clever restrictions on the other in the Estonian energy sector. We find ourselves in a situation where the Estonian economy and industry cannot afford to invest in the future. Electricity is just so outrageously expensive.
The economy has lost its competitive ability, and not just in Estonia. Germany, France – everyone is grappling with it. It is a direct consequence of a controlled economy.
We had power plants that provided us with steady and cheap power, while new rules have forced them to shut down. But if we think about every other area, the situation is even worse there.
Still, energy lies at the heart of the matter. Lacking a credible plan for energy is the most serious problem the Estonian economy faces today. And we're told that we'll just erect wind farms. They cannot provide a stable long-term solution. They do not generate cheap electricity – a blatant lie. Grid, storage and reserve capacity costs have not been factored in. It will cost a lot more than what we pay today on an already mismanaged energy market.
For 25 years, the chief narrative of re-independent Estonia has been the rule of law, free enterprise, an effective state apparatus and competitive business inputs, including electricity. We have given all of it up ourselves! Talking about the Estonian economy, we first need a plan of returning to competitive energy prices. However, both our government and the public have lost their heads.
What is happening is no doubt beneficial for those who are looking to launch terrestrial or offshore generation relying on various state guarantee schemes. What comes next does not interest them. The taxpayer will invest the necessary billions in transmission grids. But who is going to pay for it all at the end of the day?
My proposal is to call things out as they are. These sources of electricity that we are being offered are unreliable. The power system is more than generation. The use of electricity only became widespread once the ability to maintain a stable grid was created. That was the revolution.
Our energy plan is extremely weak today, which also applies to Europe as a whole. We have neither favorable prices nor supply security. And it baffles me that no one is making the point. Where are our energy specialists, where is the Academy of Sciences?
I have nothing against having wind farms. They could make up 10-20 percent of our energy portfolio. But the system needs to be on a sure enough footing.
We can give a plethora of poor examples from California and Germany, in terms of what they're risking. But they are exceedingly wealthy and can perhaps afford these kinds of skewed investments, draconian indirect costs that might be hushed up at first. But we cannot, because ours is not a country of exceeding wealth. Keeping the economy growing will be a major challenge in Estonia for at least two or three generations to come.
You believe a grand experiment is being conducted with both technology and people?
The entire phenomenon of climate catastrophism sports religious elements. It is a very interesting way of going about negating scientific discourse. Whereas the practice of canceling deniers to monopolize the so-called truth and stifle debate appeared at the same time the climate catastrophism did in the 1960s. The effectiveness of these labels is reflected in the subconscious parallel people draw with denying the Holocaust. And it has been very effective.
As we said, we are heading into a controlled economy, moving away from a natural free market and society. Orders will be given legal status.
Do you fear being canceled in certain circles after giving this interview?
I do not, because we have to talk of things as they are. We need answers to the hundreds of questions that the green transition poses as well as its socioeconomic consequences. We expect effects analyses of the proposed solutions. That is where the authors of the climate law should start. What we are getting instead is a kind of peculiar vagueness mixed with tales of all the terrible things that will happen, that we will fall far behind etc.
I also briefly watched that public event (the introduction of the Climate Council – I. K.). It reminded me of a country grandmother who used to tell you to gather the sheep scattered around the pasture. So you take a piece of bread and you lure them all into the enclosure. What the government is planning comes off as something similar. We are all being lured in with promises that everyone will be included, that there will be a council and working groups. In truth, we will all be lured into the enclosure and the gate shut behind us. And that will be our lot.
Editor: Marcus Turovski