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Estonian prime minister at COP28: Joint actions, not words needed on climate

Kaja Kallas at COP28 in Dubai, flanked by UN Secretary General António Guterres and  His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Kaja Kallas at COP28 in Dubai, flanked by UN Secretary General António Guterres and His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Source: UN COP28 / Christopher Pike / Government Office

Dealing with the global climate crisis is something which all the countries of the world need to pull together on, in taking actions, and not just honeying words, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

Speaking at the UN COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai Saturday, the Estonian head of government said: "We need to both reduce levels of CO2 emissions while at the same time boost the share of renewable energy."

To that end, "we need to triple the share of renewable energy worldwide by 2030, and to increase energy efficiency, all while replacing fossil fuels."

The prime minister added that Estonia's own goal is to use 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, ie. six years from now.

"We are upping our renewable energy production level more than threefold. We plan to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2035, compared with the levels in 1990," Kallas said.

In 1990 Estonia was still under de facto Soviet occupation, while the oil shale mines and processing plants in Ida-Viru County provided the bulk of the country's electricity needs.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas at COP28, Saturday, December 2, 2023. Source: Government Office

Kallas remained sanguine on the task ahead, calling it "a bold ambition, as fossil fuels have been dominant in energy production in Estonia until recently. But bold ambition is necessary, especially now that we are reviewing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and for the first time," she went on.

The 2015 Paris Agreement set the long-term goal of maintaining a rise in mean global temperature to well below 2  degrees celsius above "pre-industrial" levels, and preferably within a 1.5-degree range.

This would require cutting emmissions immediately, in order to reach net zero by the middle of this century, with a 50 percent cut by 2030 set as a way-stage to that.

The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2020, but rejoined in 2021.

 "We are talking about a double transition in Estonia, the focus of which is the digital and green revolution," Kallas added.

"We want to be an example to others in implementing the green transition. For the first time, both our digital tech and green tech firms are sharing their experiences at COP Estonia, with their own pavilion," she noted.

In any case, resolving the climate crisis requires a major international joint effort, the prime minister said.

She called for "an ambitious outcome from the negotiations here in Dubai, as well as concrete promises from nations to bolster their national climate goals."

The prime minister also highlighted the important role of young people in achieving the above. "Young people are our future. This makes it extremely important to involve youth in solving the climate crisis and shaping climate policy. I am delighted that our youth climate delegation has also made it here to Dubai, from Estonia."

The rest of Kallas' presentation covered the importance of aiding developing countries in dealing with climate change and adapting to the green transition, as illustrated by the US$100 billion packaged agreed upon to that end, and the €1 million donated by Estonia to the UN Green Climate Fund, along with €50,000 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Trust Fund for Supplementary Activities, and €50,000 to the new Loss and Damage Fund." The latter had been announced at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, a little over a year ago.

The prime minister also spoke about the actions of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing environmental repercussions, for instance Russia's destruction this summer of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine, and its exiting a grain agreement which had been set up to provide a safe corridor for the export of Ukrainian and Russian grain to the developing world.

The United Kingdom's head of state, King Charles III, long known for his keen interest in the environment, delivered the COP28 opening presentation, stating that the "hope of the world" rested on the success of the Dubai talks.

Ahead of the event, critics had pointed out the irony of not only the world's elite, but some quite substantial delegations (totaling around 70,000 people), converging on Dubai for a conference addressing the need to drastically re-point the world's energy economy, while traveling to the venue mostly in fossil fuel-burning aircraft.

Since the UAE is an oil-rich nation producing around 2.9 million barrels per day, the irony here was also addressed in the media, with claims being made that COP28 would be used as a forum for oil deals.

Some of the most extreme criticism of the event and what it represents revolve around a belief that the Gaia hypothesis, the phenomenon of  the Andean Pachamama day, and similar approaches, as exemplified by King Charles' speech ("The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth," as the King put it), are at play.

Those who take this line say this is little more than an atavistic cult aimed at appeasing the "gods" via sacrifices, in the hopes that this will improve the weather.

The summit addresses longer term climate changes more broadly than immediate weather events, however.

The two-week COP28 summit runs to Tuesday, December 12.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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