At the remote sitting today, the Riigikogu discussed the matter of significant national importance “European Union’s and Estonia’s climate targets by 2030 – achieving ‘Fit for 55’”, initiated by the European Union Affairs Committee.
Member of Cabinet of the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans Helena Braun, Director of Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre Lauri Tammiste, Professor of the University of Tartu and Science and Development Director of Milrem Robotics Mart Noorma and Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Siim Kallas delivered reports at the sitting.
Helena Braun, Member of Cabinet of the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, introduced the climate and energy package adopted by the European Commission in July.
Braun said that the predictions of the World Economic Forum in the recent years had identified the biodiversity crisis and climate change as the greatest and the most likely threats to humanity. She pointed out that their impacts could increasingly be felt. “In recent years, and also this year, we have seen very large floods, storms, heat waves in Europe. They have had thousands of victims, have destroyed forests and crops, and also increased the need for air conditioning and our electricity bills. The warmer the climate gets, the more frequent such extreme weather conditions become, and the more extensive and negative their impact on the life and health of humans will be,” Braun said, explaining the need for the Green Deal.
Braun stated that the cost of inaction would be many times higher than the cost of achieving climate neutrality. “If it is at all possible to attach any adequate price tag to the human lives that will be lost, to the huge migration that arises, regions becoming unfit for habitation and the total destruction of several important sectors of economy,” Braun said. “Ultimately, the transition to green economy is only a means, it is a means of preserving and enhancing the well-being of humans, not an end in itself.”
Braun pointed out as a positive example that Europe has seen this big challenge as a possibility. “Both the European Union and Estonia, our people, our businesses, still have a great opportunity to be the author, the market, but also the exporter and, of course, the primary beneficiary of these clean technology solutions, environmentally friendly products and services, as well as new innovative business models. According to all analyses, it can be used to create a very large number of jobs, and in almost all sectors of economy: in renewable energy, construction, renovation, transport, agriculture and restoration of nature,” Braun emphasised.
Braun also explained what the proposals would involve, and underlined that, by now, both the climate neutrality by 2050 and the interim target to reduce emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 were both legal obligations in Europe. “All Member States of the European Union, including Estonia, have committed themselves to this unanimously. Now, we have to meet these obligations collectively and of course also in solidarity.”
In his report, Director of Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre Lauri Tammiste focused on the importance of the “Fit for 55” proposal and its significance from the perspective of the Estonian research. He noted that the package was ambitious, and that if it was asked why it was so urgent, the reply was that much time had been wasted on discussing, analysing and debating. He underlined that the problems of greenhouse gases and climate change had been spoken about for more than 100 years already.
“Johan Rockström, who is the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, one of the most important, one of the most prominent climate scientists, said very well that this 1.5 degree target is not a negotiating position, is not an object for bargaining – it is a very clear scientific limit beyond which these negative effects start to escalate exponentially,” Tammiste said. He also emphasised that it was cheaper to prevent problems than to deal with their consequences.
Tammiste emphasised that we were a small, extremely integrated global economy. “So from this point of view it would be reasonable to look how we can benefit from this in the most sensible way possible to improve Estonia’s quality of life and solve environmental problems, but also to contribute in solidarity so that Estonia, as a member of the European and global economy, can be less vulnerable to these climate risks,” he said.
“According to the IEA, the so-called clean energy, solar and wind energy, has been the cheapest way of producing energy for several years already, and the predictions are that these markets, the demand for clean solutions is going to grow very, very much, especially as all other regions and countries start to follow suit. Maybe Europe is in the lead by some years, but this should be taken as an advantage and not as something bad,” Tammiste said.
He encouraged to start acting at once and recommended to begin with cost effective reasonable things that increase the quality of life. In his opinion, better planned cities and better organised public transport are things that are useful for several reasons.
Professor of the University of Tartu and Science and Development Director of Milrem Robotics Mart Noorma emphasised in his report that the ground-breaking technological innovation made it possible to find new solutions to problems and brought along fundamental changes in our life and work processes.
Noorma said that transition to unmanned autonomous vehicles and work machines was a field that enabled to support achieving the climate targets and at the same time conduct the processes in an economically more profitable way. “When robots come to help, it is possible to redesign our work processes, so that in principle all parties win: the nature protection enthusiasts and fighters for biological diversity, and the economic profit will certainly not decrease, but may even increase,” Noorma said. He added that tractors were very heavy, but remotely controlled or autonomous machines were much lighter.
In the Professor’s opinion, it is very important from Estonia’s point of view to find out what is the strength of Estonian entrepreneurship, what is the strength of Estonian science and what are the needs of the Estonian public sector. “This is the triple helix that has been talked about so much in the context of innovation. “If we could bring these three strengths together in the same fight against climate change, and we had a sufficient number of parties who could contribute, but also benefit from the other side, then our country will be on the winning side, as well as the Earth and the climate,” Noorma emphasised.
Noorma also said that a new generation, or the first generation of robot work machines for fields and forests was being developed. “We are very interested that the Estonian hydrogen infrastructure would develop to the level where we could do the forest and field work on hydrogen basis. In the future, hydrogen will certainly be one of the potential energy sources in the situations where batteries may not be sufficient,” Noorma said, looking into the future.
The Professor also underlined the importance of cooperation between companies, research institutions and public sector.
Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Siim Kallas said that, in September and October, parliamentary hearings on the green transition were held in the European Union Affairs Committee to learn about the general framework and sectoral problems of the Fit for 55 package before the discussions of the Government’s positions that would start soon. He explained that the Fit for 55 package was a collection of big and complicated initiatives that first existed mainly in the form of drafts and plans, but had to become laws.
Kallas pointed out that the effects of global warming were already a reality – extreme heat, floods, droughts, water scarcity, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, forest fires, windbreakages and agricultural damage – but said that, in terms of trends, these effects will be felt most by our children and grandchildren. “We have to decide now how to act to achieve climate neutrality, while ensuring that our farmers and foresters are not left behind, how to reduce fossil fuel based energy and increase the share of renewable energy production so that our energy supply and security will not be threatened or electricity prices would not rise. How to restructure the economy of East-Virumaa successfully? How to reorganise transport so that there would be less emissions, but the supply chains would not be interrupted? How to optimise consumption without damaging our standards of living?”
He acknowledged that Estonia had done well, but inevitably we had to participate in the global climate policy. “I can’t imagine that we can do anything on our own to prevent the melting of polar ice and fighting the resulting sea-level rise. It has been said that Estonia and the European Union cannot influence the global climate if China, India, the United States and others do not contribute with similar measures. By today, the above-mentioned countries have also come on board, and have taken drastic steps,” Kallas said.
Kallas added that from the economic point of view, three pillars were necessary for implementing the green transition: investments, fair pricing for normal functioning and social policy to adapt to changes and overcome the consequences of possible crises. He also spoke of the need to save natural resources and that the green transition was also a technology transition. “It is in the interests of the European Union and Estonia to be the leaders in green technologies. It is an opportunity for our entrepreneurs to create a market for environmentally sustainable services and innovative business models. The targets established by the Green Deal are thus not only in the interests of the environment. It is also a sustainable economic model that enables new developmental leap,” Kallas concluded.
During the debate, Yoko Alender (Reform Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) and Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of their political groups.
At the beginning of the sitting, Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar took his oath of office.
Photos of the sitting: (Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Your feedback is important. Please share it with us!