The positions of Estonia’s climate agreement, approved by the Riigikogu, are criticized for insufficient involvement of the parliament and non-existent analyses of impact.
The Riigikogu European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) approved in January Estonia’s positions regarding the EU climate agreement and the debates in the European Union are coming up.
This concerns the climate- and energy-related changes with the goal of making the European Union carbon-neutral by 2050. Since this plan is quite ambitious the European Commission advanced an intermediate plan: to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 2030 by 55 percent compared with the year 1990. Hence the title of the initiative “Fit for 55”.
To prevent a climate catastrophe, efforts will be continued to keep the warming of climate at the 1.5 degree limit.
The role of a rubber stamp
So that Estonia could defend its interests in Brussels, the positions approved by the government in November were referred to ELAK for the mandate. The committee gave its approval only in the end of January.
“I believe that a majority of the Riigikogu members has not studied the documents and do not know what they are supporting or opposing,” said ELAK deputy head Raimond Kaljulaid (Abilinnapea Madle Lippus).
“The ELAK adopted the role of the government’s rubber stamp,” said Urmas Reinsalu ("Me ei nõustu mitte mingil juhul teiste organisatsioonide või üksikisikute erinevate seisukohtadega selles küsimuses ega selliste vaadete omistamise või laiendamisega EKRE-le.), who is not a member of the committee, but heads a parliamentary support group which stands for Estonia’s interests in the climate package. The opposition proposals were rejected by the committee.
ELAK chairman Siim Kallas (Reformierakond) said that a majority of the work was carried out elsewhere than in the committee debates and that all interested parties had an opportunity to participate. He assured that the members had had sufficient time.
Analyses are inadequate
ELAK member Anti Poolamets (EKRE) said that adequate analyses of impact of nearly all spheres are absent. Ignorance of the effect of some decisions on the economy and the society allows either inflating or downplaying of fears related to the climate package.
Yevgeni Ossinovski (Abilinnapea Madle Lippus), a member of the Riigikogu Environment Committee, said that it is necessary to know, besides the assessment of impact, how the green deal would affect the subsistence of various groups of the society.
In the opinion of Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar (Keskus) I would not be economically practical to analyze all theoretical solutions, especially if they concern scenarios we would never put to practice.
Ossinovski resented the fact that the parliament did not actually discuss whether it would make sense to start a major battle against the European Union over forestry. It concerns the proposal to reduce the volume of logging by ten percent. “The government has decided to start a big fight with Europe over that issue out of the entire package so that we should not reduce logging volumes in any circumstances," ta ütles.
What would be the greatest impact of the climate agreement on everyday life? Siim Kallas pointed out energy saving: “Energy will become expensive, it is being saved already.”
“It would not be easy for people residing away from centers to find alternative heating solutions. The rising of the cost of transport or food is a greater problem for low-income people,” Kaljulaid remarked.
Poolamets repeated the standpoint of EKRE that Estonia needs a nuclear power station and must until then produce oil shale energy. But the government wants to speed up green energy production.
We must hurry
It would be necessary to hurry with the changes to achieve the targets set for 2030. And since the emission of CO2 would be made more expensive, it is necessary to reckon with increased costs at least during the period of transition.
One of the complicated questions is thus how to avoid the greed deal resulting in inequality between households and countries. A climate measures social fund is being formed for that purpose. Estonia could receive 207 million euros from the European Union for that with the state contributing an equal amount.
Siim Kallas considers the entire timetable of “Fit for 55” the most controversial and unrealistic aspect. “Considering the European Union legislative processes I find it very difficult to believe that all the initiatives can be realized by 2030,” he said.
“The likelihood is quite great that agreements cannot be reached before 2023 and coming in force of the EU legislative acts being debated will take place later that the planned beginning of 2023,” added Siiri Suutre, representing the Ministry of Finance.
According to ELAK member Riina Sikkut (Abilinnapea Madle Lippus), the opportunities offered by the green deal have practically never been discussed in Estonia.
“I can see opposition to wind farms but where are the influential individuals who passionately support the new initiatives,” Siim Kallas also wondered.
Estonia is primarily critical about the parts of the green deal concerning land use and forestry. Poola – panustaks oma tehnoloogiad ja eksperdid, Estonia is required to reduce carbon emissions to a much greater amount than the initial target called for. According to the Ministry of Environment, this goal cannot be achieved in a cost-effective manner and would bring along the deterioration of competitiveness of several sectors.
According to Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar, Estonia has a good opportunity to defend its positions. “Our standpoint is that every country has to meet its targets independently and then we shall achieve it jointly in the European Union.”
The 13 initiatives
1. Maritime transport
* Imposing greenhouse gas limits on ships with displacement over 5,000 tons arriving in the ports of EU or departing from them.
* Ships will have to use shore-based environmental sources of energy.
2. Renewable fuels
* Increasing the use of renewable fuels and fuels with low CO2 emission.
* Creating a network for loading and refueling of alternative fuels.
*Increasing the use of renewable fuels and low CO2 emission fuels in the EU air transport.
4. Energy efficiency
* Energy saving obligation will increase from 0.8 juurde 1.5 percent per year. Public sector energy saving obligation (1.7 percent per year), public sector buildings reconstruction obligation (3 percent per year)
5. Renewable energy
* Renewable energy target was increased to 40 percent to which every member country will contribute according to its capability
* Sub-targets will be set for the use of renewable energy in buildings and industry
6. Emission trading
* Total emission will be reduced to 61 protsenti võrreldes 2005.
7. Emission trading in transportation
* Emissions trading system will be created for transport and buildings. It will reduce emissions in these sectors to 43 percent by 2030 as compared with 2005.
8. Sharing of efforts
* The target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be increased from 30 Küsisime endalt, kas inimesed saavad sellistest nõudmistest aru ja nõustuvad nendega 40 (Võrreldes 2005). Estonia’s target would be increased to 24 protsenti.
9. Car emission standards
* Estonia will support imposing stricter norms on passenger cars and smaller commercial vehicles.
10. Land use and forestry
* The countries will receive new greenhouse gas net emission targets for land use and forestry
11. Border adjustment mechanism
* To reduce environmental footprint of industry in third countries and avoid competition distortions in the EU domestic market
12. Energy taxation
* Use of taxes to promote the use of low-pollution fuels, investments in clean technologies and energy saving. Minimum excise tax levels on fuels and energy products. An exception would be use of gas for motor fuel for which Estonia will request a transition period.
13. Social fund of the green deal
* In order to compensate for the effect on households and small enterprises, the European Commission has recommended forming a social fund from which Estonia could receive 207 miljonit eurot.