Lithuania

   

Environmental Policies

#11
Key Findings
Despite a high energy intensity, Lithuania scores well (rank 11) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

The country’s greenhouse-gas emission reduction target is only 9%, compared to an EU-level target of 30%. Emissions in the country are nevertheless forecast to rise by 6% by 2030 as compared to 2005. Taxes on transport are the EU’s lowest. Climate-change program funds have been reallocated to increase public-employee salaries.

The proportion of energy produced from renewable sources is above 25%, exceeding the Europe 2020 target of 23%. The share in the heating sector was nearly 50% as of 2017. A national strategy contains further regulatory and financial incentives for the use of wind and solar energy, with a goal of basing all domestic energy production on renewables by 2050

Water-supply and sewage infrastructures have improved substantially. Wastewater treatment and waste disposal are weak areas. Lithuania has outlawed the use of electricity derived from Belarusian nuclear-power plants, and is trying to dissuade other Baltic countries from buying it.

Environment

#10

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
7
Lithuania’s environmental performance varies significantly by sector. The country’s energy intensity is above the EU average, with the residential-housing sector and the transport sector being particularly energy-inefficient. Lithuania lacks ambitious greenhouse-gas emission targets, with its binding EU target being a reduction of only 9% (compared to that of 30% i n the EU ). In addition, since emissions in the country are forecast to rise by 6% by 2030 as a baseline compared to the level of 2005, significant efforts will be necessary to meet the national climate and energy goals. Since taxes on transport are the lowest in the EU in the country, Lithuanian authorities have proposed taxing polluting cars. The Ministry of Environment announced the possibility of imposing €20 in tax per vehicle emitting over 130g/km. However, this was transformed into a vehicle-registration tax during the debates over the 2020 budget. Thus, fiscal needs were prioritized over environmental objectives. This was also visible in the decision to reallocate funds from the country’s climate-change program to other budget programs, mostly in response to public protests by teachers, lecturers, doctors and other professions demanding wage increases in 2020.

The proportion of energy produced from renewable sources in Lithuania reached 25.8% in 2017, above the country’s Europe 2020 target of 23%. The heating sector, where the share of renewables reached 46.5%, largely contributed to this achievement. In terms of the overall share of renewables in domestic energy production, Lithuania is second after Denmark due to expanding solar- and wind-energy capacities. The National Energy Strategy includes further regulatory and financial incentives for the use of wind and solar energy, with the goal of having all domestic production of energy be based on renewables by 2050.

Water-supply and sewage infrastructure has improved substantially over the years thanks to the use of EU structural funds. However, the provision of adequate connections to the public water supply still remains a challenge in some areas. Moreover, wastewater treatment is inadequate in some respects, with significant differences evident between rural and urban areas. In February 2017, the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure against Lithuania for failing to comply with EU wastewater-treatment requirements.

In the Environmental Performance Index 2018, Lithuania ranked 29th out of 180 countries, with the best rankings in the areas of agriculture, biodiversity and habitat, and ecosystem vitality, and the worst ranking in the category of forests (119th). With respect to biodiversity, Lithuania’s protected areas cover 15.6% of the country’s territory, but only 22% of habitat types and 54% of the protected species in Lithuania are subject to preservation efforts, according to European Commission reports. A popular initiative to expand a natural reserve in the pinewood of Punia was reversed by a new minister for the environment seeking to protect the interests of foresters, hunters and local inhabitants. Inadequate legislation and ineffective enforcement in the field of pollution control failed to prevent substantial damage to the environment when a major fire broke out in a tire-recycling facility in Alytus in October 2019. The country’s municipal-waste recycling rate reached 48.1% in 2017, which is still below the EU average. Infrastructure for waste sorting and recycling is insufficiently developed, and most nonhazardous waste is disposed of in landfills. Landfills remain the predominant means of disposing of waste in Lithuania, as this is the cheapest option for municipal-waste management. Additional investment will be necessary to meet new EU recycling targets for different waste streams in the future.

To sum up, while the goals of environmental policy are ambitious, particularly with regard to the expansion of renewable energy capacities, related policies are not implemented consistently. This is clearly illustrated by the outcome of the planned tax on polluting vehicles and the plans to reallocate money from the climate-change program illustrate. Thus, there is considerable potential to integrate environmental concerns better across relevant policy sectors.

Citations:
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT, country report Lithuania 2019: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/2019-european-semester-country-report-lithuania_en.pdf
The Article 17 EU Habitats Directive Reports available at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/knowledge/rep_habitats/
The Environmental Protection Index is available at http://epi.yale.edu/epi2012/country profiles
Environmental Performance Index 2018, https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/sites/default/files/2018-ltu.pdf

Global Environmental Protection

#10

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
Lithuanian policymakers do contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental-protection regimes, but this policy area is not perceived as a government priority. Lithuania has demonstrated commitment to existing regimes (especially those promulgated by the EU or promoted by its institutions) by incorporating international or European environmental provisions into national legislation or strategic documents and implementing them. For example, in 2012, the Lithuanian parliament approved a national policy strategy on climate-change management as a further step in implementing Lithuania’s commitments in the area of climate change and energy. Although Lithuanian policymakers are not usually active in advancing global environmental strategies, Lithuania contributed to the Warsaw Climate Change Conference in 2013 as part of its presidency of the European Council. In addition, Lithuania successfully initiated the 2013 U.N. resolution on cooperative measures to assess and increase awareness of environmental effects related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea. The country’s institutions are most active at the regional level, for instance addressing issues related to the Baltic Sea. In recent years, concerns about the safety of the Astravyets nuclear-power plant, currently under construction in neighboring Belarus, have become an important issue. Lithuania has outlawed the use of electricity derived from Belarusian nuclear-power plants, and is trying to dissuade other Baltic countries from buying it. The appointment of Virginijus Sinkevičius as the commissioner responsible for the environment, oceans and fisheries in the 2019 – 2024 European Commission may boost Lithuania’s efforts to strengthen environmental protection at the EU level, or at least place greater attention on environmental issues in the country’s public debates.
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