Latvia

   

Environmental Policies

#9
Key Findings
With generally good environmental-performance outcomes, Latvia scores well overall (rank 9) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The country has made progress in decoupling economic growth from environmental pressures such as greenhouse gas emissions and most air pollutants. The use of renewable energy sources has increased, and access to and the quality of water and waste services have improved. The regulatory framework for environmental management is strong.

External observers have noted that the country’s goals remain relatively unambitious. Waste management in particular has been a challenge. The OECD has called for more investment in green public procurement, eco-labeling and market incentives, as well as for better enforcement of existing laws. Protection of forests is well organized.

The country complies with UN climate agreements and other international guidelines, and follows EU climate policy, but is not an agenda-setter.

Environment

#4

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
8
First, ensuring the sustainability of natural resources and protecting the quality of the environment in Latvia is evidenced by the country’s consistently high rankings in the Environmental Performance Index produced by Yale and Columbia universities (37th in the world rankings in 2018). However, overall environmental performance indicators have slipped due to sub-par performance in climate change.

In 2017, Latvia spent €152.3 million (1.5% of total government expenditure) on research and management of environmental quality, focusing in particular on waste treatment, disposal facilities and protection of water resources. However, the EU Environmental Implementation Review (2019) and the OECD Environmental Performance Review (2019) have emphasized that, despite the overall positive performance, Latvia would benefit from setting more ambitious goals when it comes to environmental performance.

In particular, waste management remains a challenge. Latvia is at risk of not attaining its municipal waste recycling target for 2020. In addition, Latvia ranks low for eco-innovation, despite ranking as the third most fastest growing innovator in the European Innovation Scoreboard 2019, while material recycling rate remains very low at 10%. In addition, the OECD has emphasized the need for Latvia to invest in green public procurement, eco-labeling and market incentives, and promote public awareness, better enforcement and more ambitious goals in this area (e.g., the current government goals for green procurement is to reach only 20% of government spending by 2020).

Nevertheless, Latvia is on course to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals, with significant opportunities for accelerating the move to a low-carbon, greener and more inclusive economy. OECD has noted that this would be achieved by investing in energy efficiency, renewables, sustainable forestry, and sound waste and material management.


Second, Latvia is a heavily wooded country, with 2.9 million hectares (44.5% of the total area) of its territory forested, of which 50% is state owned. The government acts as both regulator and largest landowner with respect to Latvia’s forests. Protection of forests is well organized and secured through legislation, which regulates all related economic activities, including harvesting, management plans, regeneration, and monitoring and control of tree species.

Natura 2000 designated sites cover 12% of the territory of Latvia, representing 327 different areas for the protection of habitats and species. The Protection of Species and Habitats Law provides for the establishment of micro-reserves to protect small-scale biologically rich areas that lie outside the protected territories. Over 2,000 micro-reserves had been established as of 2012.

In 2015, Latvia adopted a new Environmental Policy Strategy for 2014 – 2020, prioritizing a new financing model for the use of natural resource tax revenue, creating a deposit system for waste management, improving standards in wastewater management, and improving research and development capacities.

Overall, Latvia has been able to make progress in decoupling economic growth from environmental pressures, such as greenhouse gas emissions and most air pollutants. Furthermore, the use of renewable energy sources has increased, and access to and the quality of water and waste services have improved. In addition, Latvia has pioneered a Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) assessment for marine waters, which confirms the substantial progress Latvia has made since 2016.



Third, overall, Latvia has a strong regulatory framework for environmental management with well-developed and effective mechanisms of environmental governance. However, the OECD has noted a few institutional capacity constraints that hamper more effective implementation of environmental law and use of good regulatory practices, particularly in compliance assurance.

Over the last decade, Latvia’s environmental performance has improved in several areas (such as emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, residential energy efficiency, wastewater treatment and waste management). However, the progress has not been even and leaves much to be desired when it comes to energy efficiency, recycling and eco-innovation. Furthermore, continued, sustained economic growth is likely to intensify pressures on the environment and biodiversity in the near future.

Citations:
1. European Commission (2019), The Environmental Implementation Review: Latvia, Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_lv_en.pdf, Last assessed: 10.11.2019

2. OECD (2019) OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Latvia 2019, Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/2cb03cdd-en/1/2/3/2/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/2cb03cdd-en&mimeType=text/html&_csp_=d3aab935ae1f1f17fda33fa49884a4c8&itemIGO=oecd&itemContentType=book, Last assessed: 10.11.2019

3. Central Statisitcal Bureau (2019) Latvia: Statistics in brief, Available at: https://www.csb.gov.lv/sites/default/files/publication/2019-05/Nr_03_Latvia_Statistics_in%20Brief%202019_%2819_00%29_EN.pdf, Last assessed: 02.11.2019

4. Yale University (2018), Environmental Performance Index Rankings, Available at: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-country-report/LVA. Last assessed: 11.11.2019

5. European Environment Agency (2018), Latvia – Air Pollution Country Fact Sheet 2018, Available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/air/country-fact-sheets/latvia#tab-see-also, Last assessed: 31.12.2018

Global Environmental Protection

#15

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
6
Latvia is not an international environmental policy agenda-setter. The country has agreed to comply with international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, but does not have the political or economic capacity to lead on a global scale.

Latvia has joined the following international conventions regarding environmental protection and preservation: the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the CITES (Washington) Convention, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), the Convention on Migratory Species (Bonn Convention), the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats, the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro Convention) and the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention).

Latvia has also been a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1995 and to the Kyoto Protocol since 2002. The 2019 Climate Change Performance Index, which evaluated emissions trends, emissions levels and climate policy, rated Latvia as a high performer overall, especially regarding the management of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the index also indicated Latvia’s lower performance regarding renewable energy production and energy use.

Latvia has also signed bilateral cooperation agreements on the issue of environmental policy with Austria, Belarus, Denmark, Georgia, Estonia, Russia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Finland and Ukraine. The country is party to the Helsinki Commission Baltic Sea Action Plan of 2007, which aims to improve the Baltic Sea’s ecological status by 2021.

As an EU member state, Latvia is bound by EU legislation, with EU climate policy particularly influential. Latvia indirectly contributes to EU initiatives, but does not directly advance global environmental protection regimes.

Citations:
1. Germanwatch (2019). Climate Change Performance Index. Available at: https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/CCPI-2019-Results-190614-WEB-A4.pdf, Last assessed 04.11.2019

2. Yale University (2018), Environmental Performance Index Rankings, Available at: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-country-report/LVA. Last assessed: 04.11.2019
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