Estonia

   

Environmental Policies

#8
Key Findings
With a strong record in recent years, Estonia receives high rankings in international comparison (rank 8) with regard to environmental policies. Its score in this area is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Environmental awareness rose sharply through the EU accession process. Greenhouse-gas emissions have been halved in 20 years, and the renewable-energy share is significant. However, the country is still dependent on energy-intensive technologies.

By 2020, the country aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80% compared to the 1990 level. The country has ratified the Paris climate accord and other global agreements, but is not a leader in shaping international environmental regimes.
Water pollution has decreased, but deforestation and clear-cutting has increased in recent years, triggering protests and calls for more responsible forest management.

Environment

#7

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
9
Environmental awareness has risen rapidly in the political sphere, partly because of the need to comply with international standards. The Ministry of Environment articulated a vision of an integrated system of environmental protection that covers the entire country and ensures the preservation of a clean environment and sustainable use of natural resources. However, the dependence of the economy on energy-heavy technologies remains a challenge. On the other hand, Estonia is sparsely populated and possesses significant natural resources – wetlands, forests, and protected areas for flora and fauna.

On climate protection, the country is progressing in line with international targets. It has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by half in a little over 20 years, even as the size of its economy has doubled. By 2050, Estonia aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80% compared to the 1990 level. The share of renewable energy in Estonia today is already at 25%, close to the European Union’s 2030 target. The main remaining challenge is the future of the oil-shale sector.

Estonia has invested significantly in renovation and building of the water management infrastructure. As a result, water pollution has decreased and the quality of tap water has improved. However, most of the country’s lakes and rivers are very small, and therefore highly sensitive to any pollution whatsoever.

More than half of Estonia’s territory is forested. Commercial forests account for 70% of all forest area, while the remaining third has been placed under various protection regimes. Although the volume of forests has increased over the last 50 years, deforestation and clear-cutting has intensified in recent years. This has triggered several public protests against clear-cutting and for more responsible forest management.

Finally, Estonia has a rich biological diversity, being home to a wide variety of wildlife species. To keep the population of its main species stable, the government regulates hunting through licensing and limits. All protected objects and species form a Natura 2000 network. About half of the Natura 2000 areas are wetlands and another half are dry land. Dry land protected areas cover about 17% of the Estonian mainland. One of the main risks for biodiversity is increasing traffic and road construction, though the newest roads have been constructed in accordance with environmental protection regulations. Strong emphasis has been put on environmental concerns in the process of planning the route for the Rail Baltic high-speed railway.

Global Environmental Protection

#8

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, fosters their advancement and initiates 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 fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
7
Estonia is engaged in a broad spectrum of activities to advance global environmental policy, but Estonia rarely, if ever, takes a proactive position in this area. Still, it has joined most important global and European agreements and displayed its commitment to these international agreements and targets. Estonia ratified the Paris Agreement and is taking steps to switch to more environmentally sustainable economic and behavioral models. In October 2014, Estonia agreed on EU energy and climate goals for 2030. Broadly speaking, the Ministry of Environment focuses on two aspects of international cooperation: using international experience to improve the state of the environment in Estonia and using Estonia’s experience to provide support to other countries.
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