A binding agreement is needed; the Commission should be the driving force

On the issue of cli­mate change, the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment sup­ports “an ambi­tious and bind­ing glob­al agree­ment” on cut­ting green­house gas emis­sions that includes all major pol­luters, and believes that, in this respect, “the role of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion as a dri­ving force is irre­place­able.”11Open­ing Remarks by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet at the con­fer­ence Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Green Indus­try in Esto­nia, 20.05.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/9488 (last access: 01.06.2010). Accord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, Esto­nia is pre­pared to con­tribute to both reduc­ing green­house gas­es and financ­ing the future agree­ment. In light of these goals, the results of the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence were dis­ap­point­ing. Accord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Andrus Ansip, the EU “did what it could” and has set a good exam­ple for the oth­er part­ners both in terms of reduc­ing emis­sions and com­mit­ing finances. Euro­pean part­ners should con­tin­ue work towards a legal­ly bind­ing glob­al agree­ment.22Kristin Aas­ma: Kopen­haa­geni kli­imakon­v­er­ents: keskmise tem­per­atu­uri tõus jäägu alla 2 kraa­di, Õhtule­ht, 20.12.2009. Accord­ing to the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment posi­tion paper for the Euro­pean Coun­cil meet­ing of 25–26 March 2010, Esto­nia con­tin­ues to sup­port the EU’s plan to reduce emis­sions by 30 per­cent com­pared to 1990 lev­els in case oth­er devel­oped coun­tries com­mit to com­pa­ra­ble reduc­tions and devel­op­ing coun­tries “con­tribute each accord­ing to their oblig­a­tions and abil­i­ty.”33State Chan­cellery of Esto­nia: Infor­mat­sioon ja Eesti seisuko­had Euroopa Ülemkogu 25. ja 26. märt­si 2010. a koh­tu­miseks, avail­able at: http://www.riigikantselei.ee/failid/100318_VV_seisukohad__K.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010). In the post-Copen­hagen sit­u­a­tion, the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment believes that it is bet­ter to refrain from intro­duc­ing new numer­i­cal tar­gets. Instead, the EU should focus on explain­ing its posi­tion and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with all part­ners. Again, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion should play a cen­tral role in these efforts.44Ibid.

How­ev­er, there appears to be a gap between the Eston­ian government’s rhetoric and real com­mit­ment to fight­ing cli­mate change. Like many oth­er post-com­mu­nist coun­tries, Esto­nia could eas­i­ly meet Kyoto tar­gets due to the col­lapse of Sovi­et-era heavy indus­try, and the changed struc­ture of the econ­o­my enabled it to prof­it from sell­ing emis­sion quo­tas. Despite for­mal­ly meet­ing the Kyoto tar­gets, the Eston­ian econ­o­my is still very car­bon-inten­sive and Esto­nia is among the biggest per capi­ta pol­luters in Europe.55Nation­al Audit Office of Esto­nia: State’s efforts of reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions: Sum­ma­ry of audit results, 26.11.2009, avail­able at: http://www.riigikontroll.ee/tabid/215/Audit/2125/WorkerTab/Audit/WorkerId/49/language/en-US/Default.aspx (last access: 01.06.2010). In its recent report, the State Audit Office of Esto­nia found that the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment has not set clear objec­tives in fight­ing cli­mate change, lacks a sol­id action plan for coor­di­nat­ing the reduc­tion of green­house gas emis­sions, does not know how effec­tive the emis­sion reduc­tion mea­sures used so far have been, is not able to pre­dict emis­sion vol­umes in the future, and has not used the emis­sions trad­ing sys­tem to pro­vide incen­tives for enter­pris­es to reduce pol­lu­tion.66Ibid.

While var­i­ous envi­ron­men­tal­ist groups keep push­ing for bet­ter poli­cies, the gen­er­al pub­lic does not appear to take the top­ic too seri­ous­ly. Pub­lic dis­course in Esto­nia focus­es on the ques­tion of whether glob­al warm­ing real­ly exists and whether it is due to human activ­i­ty. Many peo­ple, includ­ing promi­nent politi­cians and opin­ion lead­ers, regard glob­al warm­ing either as a “mat­ter of faith,” a “polit­i­cal game,” or a “prof­itable busi­ness.” Indeed, an opin­ion fre­quent­ly encoun­tered in the media is that Esto­nia would only ben­e­fit from warmer weath­er and improved con­di­tions for agri­cul­ture and tourism.

The gov­ern­ment argues that Euro­pean coun­tries, includ­ing Esto­nia, need to help devel­op­ing coun­tries cope with cli­mate change – not least because of the var­i­ous ways (immi­gra­tion, vio­lence, and ter­ror­ism) in which dif­fi­cul­ties in devel­op­ing coun­tries affect Europe and Esto­nia. The gov­ern­ment has not advanced clear visions on who should bear the costs of fight­ing cli­mate change in devel­op­ing coun­tries, and seems con­tent to leave this ques­tion for big­ger pow­ers to decide. Its own efforts focus on pro­vid­ing assis­tance to nations that have suf­fered in nat­ur­al dis­as­ters (e.g., Haiti). Esto­nia con­tin­ues to observe prin­ci­ples of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment in its aid pro­grammes tar­get­ing devel­op­ing nations.

    Footnotes

  • 1Open­ing Remarks by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet at the con­fer­ence Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Green Indus­try in Esto­nia, 20.05.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/9488 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 2Kristin Aas­ma: Kopen­haa­geni kli­imakon­v­er­ents: keskmise tem­per­atu­uri tõus jäägu alla 2 kraa­di, Õhtule­ht, 20.12.2009.
  • 3State Chan­cellery of Esto­nia: Infor­mat­sioon ja Eesti seisuko­had Euroopa Ülemkogu 25. ja 26. märt­si 2010. a koh­tu­miseks, avail­able at: http://www.riigikantselei.ee/failid/100318_VV_seisukohad__K.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Nation­al Audit Office of Esto­nia: State’s efforts of reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions: Sum­ma­ry of audit results, 26.11.2009, avail­able at: http://www.riigikontroll.ee/tabid/215/Audit/2125/WorkerTab/Audit/WorkerId/49/language/en-US/Default.aspx (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 6Ibid.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.