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Government identified climate issues as political priority

26. July 2019 - 14:52

Stenbock House, July 25 2019 - At today’s cabinet meeting, the government heard the proposals of the Ministry of the Environment on how to achieve the objective of reduction of greenhouse gases emission by 2030 in Estonia. The proposals include suggestions about continuing shifting to renewable fuels, the development of public transport, electric cars, cycle and pedestrian traffic, and supporting rail transport.

“The climate defines our future and to fight the consequences of climate change, we need to change how we think. We need the contribution of all Estonians,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. “By the middle of this century, Estonia must become a country with a low greenhouse gas emission and competitive economy. To achieve this goal, the government intends to make clear choices in next months in issues affecting the fulfilment of this goal. Solutions to these issues can be found in the energy, industry, transport, agriculture, and construction sectors; however, many of these areas require large-scale investments and extensive innovation. Recent discussions regarding the future of oil shale industry or wind farms have covered some possible examples. It is important is that through discussions and decisions, we look into the future and take the interests of the current and next generations into account.”

The prime minister confirmed that the recently established climate and energy commission of the government will develop the proposals presented by the Ministry of the Environment further. The national discussions will culminate in a climate conference to be organised on the initiative of the prime minister in cooperation with the Estonian Academy of Sciences and held on 13 September.

The Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk stressed that each megawatt hour of electrical energy produced from renewable sources replacing electricity produced from oil shale would reduce Estonia’s emission of greenhouse gases by approximately 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Kokk added that a low emission of greenhouse gases could be an additional source of revenue for Estonia. “In the next few years, a quota market will be established for other sectors in addition to the large-scale energy industry. If Estonia is able to limit the emission of carbon dioxide more than planned, i.e. reduce the emission generated by the transport, small-scale energy, and agriculture sectors from 6.2 million tonnes below the target of 5.5 million tonnes by 2030, we will create an opportunity for the country to earn revenue when trading units on the transnational quota market,” said Kokk.

According to the proposals presented by the Ministry of the Environment, preconditions must be created for new renewable electricity production investments to compensate the reduction of power production. Renewable energy technologies are now less expensive, enabling focus to be put on other issues that hinder the development of the sector. For example, it is possible to acquire radars enabling alleviation of state security limitations and partly co-finance connections of new power plants producing renewable energy.

The proposals presented by the Ministry of the Environment regarding heat production include, as one solution, the continuation of supporting the transition to renewable fuels and establishment of a combined heat and power plant based on renewable sources in Narva that would continue using oil shale. As the production of heat from oil shale is very carbon-intensive and this type of production will be affected by the growing carbon dioxide quota price, the combined heat and power plant would help limiting the price increase of distant heating. The transition of heat energy producers from fossil fuels to renewable fuels has so far been one of the success stories of Estonia’s energy policy.

Two projects concerning the production of oil shale oil, which generates a significantly smaller emission of greenhouse gases compared to oil shale burning, are currently under discussion, where one of the projects involves establishing a new oil plant and a preliminary refinery of oil shale oil. As an increase in the production of oil would reduce the production of electricity by oil shale burning, this solution is in agreement with the climate objectives to be achieved by 2030 in Estonia.

Aside from the large-scale energy industry, the transport sector has the greatest potential in reducing emission amounts. The railway electrification plan has already been approved by the government. Other measures that could assist in achieving the climate objectives are shifting more freight from road to rail, supporting the purchase of electric cars, transition of public means of transport to biomethane and electricity, development of bicycle infrastructure in cities, and promotion of tram transport. Renovation of buildings, improvement of manure treatment in agriculture, and production of renewable energy from manure have a remarkable potential in the reduction of greenhouse gas emission.

According to the current agreement, Estonia has to reduce the total emission of greenhouse gases by 70 per cent by 2030 compared to the level of 1990. By the time of the next discussion of the state budget strategy, the Ministry of the Environment in cooperation with other ministries has to provide a specific assessment of the impact and cost, the schedule of implementation, and projected results of the measures for 2021‒2030.

More detailed information about climate change and Estonia’s plans can be found on the website of the Ministry of the Environment:

•          Estonia has to reduce the total emission of greenhouse gases by 70 per cent compared to the year 1990 by 2030.
•          In 2017, the total emission of greenhouse gases was approximately 19 million tonnes in Estonia and this indicator has to drop to 12 million tonnes by 2030.
•          The European Union has discussed the objective of achieving a carbon-neutral status by 2050. For Estonia, achieving this entails specifying future objectives.
•          The large-scale energy and industry sectors account for 70 per cent of the total emission of greenhouse gases in Estonia (data from 2017).
•          In 2017, the transport, small-scale energy, and agriculture sectors caused approximately 30 per cent of the emission of greenhouse gases in Estonia. Half of this emission was generated by the transport sector.


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