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Tartu city government takes on bulk of climate council proposals

Tartu Town Hall, the seat of Tartu city government.
Tartu Town Hall, the seat of Tartu city government. Source: Vladislava Snurnikova/ERR

Proposals from a climate council set up at state level earlier this year will mostly be taken on in Estonia's second city, Tartu, following input from local residents also.

Deputy mayor of Tartu Elo Kiivet (SDE) said the city government has considered almost all of the 66 proposals made, and work is currently underway to implement these

Kiivet said: "It was a question of how to make the school environments safer and more pleasant for children."

"To that end, we hope to continue with more momentum in the new year. The schools themselves have also displayed an interest in doing this, and we are also considering how to make the surroundings at school safer," she went on.

Eesti 200 city council deputy Kristiina Tõnisson meanwhile said that 80 percent of the climate council's proposals coincided with the long-term direction the city of Tartu itself wants to move in.

Tõnisson said: "Planned work is in progress, plus I think it was in the works before in any case, so that maybe provided the extra impetus."

"There had been no feedback to the participants, but this has now been put to work, and naturally there is always the question of how precisely how many trees were planted, or how many pavilions were fixed up. But perhaps it's still a little too early to inquire how much has actually been carried out," Tõnisson added.

The initial involvement of the public in this way was "moderately successful," Tõnisson continued.

Tõnisson also noted that the secondary idea behind the climate council "is to make policy-making and [public] involvement such that it is an ongoing process which citizens can participate in, but this has unfortunately been neglected," adding that it is not clear if similar projects will take place on a regular basis in future.

Elo Kiivet said that the project had been a success in that it provided input considered important for Tartu residents, adding it also helped to simplify the setting of the city's big goals and objectives:

"In the meantime, when we have discussions on this about where to start or how to prioritize things; what to include in the budget and what not to, if we can state what is important to residents makes for an effective argument," she went on.

Tartu's first climate conference was held in spring 2022, involving city residents and local government, who together looked for ways to make the city space safer and more attractive.

This gathering also resulted in proposals for the city government to design a more climate-friendly future for Estonia's second city, as well as to cut noise and air pollution.

Forty-five Tartu residents chosen via random sampling, with the aim of presenting a cross-section of the public, took part in the climate council (Kliimakogu) sessions.

The overall proposals were very varied - from replacing excessive hard surfaces with greenery to creating car-free zones in front of schools.

Kiivet said one of the proposals not to have been taken on was that the city authorities be liable for clearing all sidewalks of snow and ice in winter; the other items which did not make it were similarly down mainly to financial rather than ideological reasons, Kiivet added.

The city government is to implement most of the adopted proposals during the current Tartu budgetary period, ie. 2022-2025.

The climate council was established earlier this year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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