Latvia

   

Environmental Policies

#12
Key Findings
With generally good environmental-performance outcomes, Latvia scores well overall (rank 12) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The country shows strengths in water-resource management, environmental-health policy and biodiversity, though weaknesses on forests, agriculture and fisheries are evident. A recently adopted environmental strategy will use natural-resources tax revenues to fund waste-water management and R&D.

Air quality is good, and the amount of household waste generated per capita is below the EU average.

Climate-change policy has been a somewhat weak point in recent years. The Climate Change Financial Instrument, funded through the International Emissions Trading Scheme, is the country’s main climate-change policy mechanism. The country complies with UN climate agreements and other international guidelines, and follows EU climate policy, but is not an agenda-setter.

Environment

#2

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 policy effectively ensures the sustainability of natural resources and protects the quality of the environment, as evidenced by Latvia’s consistently high rankings in the Environmental Performance Index produced by Yale and Columbia universities (37th in the world rankings in 2018). Though the overall environmental performance has slipped due to sub-par performance on climate change. Water resources, environmental health policy and biodiversity were identified as particular strengths. However, weaknesses remain in the areas of forests, agriculture and fisheries.

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

The Climate Change Financial Instrument, funded through the International Emissions Trading Scheme, is the main climate-change policy instrument.

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.

Biodiversity in Latvia means coastal biodiversity, with unique brackish-water ecological systems at the shore of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga as well as forest ecosystems, and bogs and fens. Natura 2000 designated sites cover 12% of the territory of Latvia, representing 327 different areas for the protection of habitats and species. A law called On Protection of Species and Habitats also provides for the establishment of micro-reserves to protect small-scale biologically rich areas that lie outside of protected territories. Over 2,000 micro-reserves had been established as of 2012.

The amount of household waste generated per capita was below the EU average, 410kg (EU average being 482 kg). Air quality is good – the limit values for sulfur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide pollutants have not been exceeded. In 2016, €205 million was spent on research and management of environmental quality.

Citations:
1. Yale University (2018), Environmental Performance Index Rankings, Available at: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-country-report/LVA. Last assessed: 31.12.2018

2. European environment – state and outlook 2015. European Environment Agency. Available at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer-2015/countries/latvia, Last assessed 31.12.2018

3. 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

4. Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2018), Latvia 2018 - Statistics in Brief, Available at: https://www.csb.gov.lv/sites/default/files/publication/2018-05/Nr%2003%20Latvia_Statistics%20in%20Brief%202018%20%2818_00%29%20EN.pdf, Last assessed: 31.12.2018.

Global Environmental Protection

#24

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
5
Despite having a president and, until recently, a prime minister from the Union of Greens and Farmers party, 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.

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.

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 been a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1995 and to the Kyoto Protocol since 2002. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Latvia and the other EU member states committed themselves to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 8% relative to the baseline-year level during the first commitment period, from 2008 to 2012. The 2018 Climate Change Performance Index, which evaluated emissions trends, emissions levels and climate policy, rated Latvia as a good performer, but noted its sub-par performance on climate change.

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.

Citations:
1. Germanwatch (2017). Climate Change Performance Index. Available at: https://germanwatch.org/en/download/16484.pdf. Last assessed 06.10.2017

2. Yale University (2018), Environmental Performance Index Rankings, Available at: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-country-report/LVA. Last assessed: 31.12.2018
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