A sustainable Europe through business unusual

As Estonia begins its EU presidency on 1 July, business as usual won’t cut it. We need business unusual and Estonia’s successful track record in the last 25 years gives us hope that it will be able to make its mark, writes Lauri Tammiste.

Lauri Tammiste is the director of the Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre (SEI Tallinn).

Estonian society has gone through radical changes over the past 25 years, and its bold decisions on economic policies, the IT sector and politics have paid off. Now it’s time to apply the same radical thinking to environmental policy and business. As Estonia begins its EU presidency, business as usual won’t cut it. We need business unusual - writes euractiv.

Saturday marks the start of Estonia’s first EU presidency, a tenure that brings the opportunity to find “unity through balance” – as the presidency motto goes – when tackling Europe’s most pressing challenges and motivating other member states to come along. One of the challenges is how to transition to a climate-resilient, smart economy.

Though many have focused on Estonia’s goals for the digital internal market, security and migration policies, the country has also made environment and sustainability a top priority. We applaud this foresight. EU environmental regulations are often perceived as burdensome and causing headaches, but they also positively impact society in ways we often take for granted.

Wastewater treatment systems are now more efficient, for example, and the quality of tap water has increased. EU directives on renewable energy have also helped to shape a framework for our country to invest into better alternatives than oil shale.

Now Estonia – together with our fellow EU members – is set to address another looming issue: How can we transition to an economy that is low-carbon and climate resilient?

The Paris Agreement has set a demanding goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius. Even if the target is met, which will require policy measures that go beyond the current ones, research from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and other organisations show that countries will need to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

On 13 October, the EU Environment Council will meet in Luxembourg, forming the basis of Europe’s participation in this year’s global negotiations on climate change, known as COP23. The U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a blow, but it won’t stop a worldwide shift to renewables – and it’s important to keep the momentum for the next steps of the accord’s implementation during Estonia’s presidency.

It’s important to keep the momentum and reach the next agreements for the accord’s implementation during Estonia’s presidency. Also, continue work on climate policy files such as the Emissions Trading System, the climate and energy-related Effort Sharing Regulation as well as the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry document. Only then will it be possible for Europe to boldly face meetings with global partners and expect them to act.

Estonia has also set another important priority in eco-innovation, an essential foundation for Europe’s future competitiveness and sustainable development. It’s an area where environment and economy meet, merging new technology with environmentally sustainable business.

Consider takeaway coffee cups. In Germany alone, 2.8 billion of them are thrown away each year. That’s 320,000 sold across the country every hour, with many ending up in oceans as plastic waste.

But a circular economy offers potential solutions. Several were on display at this year’s Negavatt competition for students, which aims to support implementing innovative solutions for reduction of energy and resource usage at campuses. First and second prize both went to teams that developed ways to replace plastic with natural resources. The first place team made dishes out of straw; the second used recycled paper and wood fibre to make biodegradable food packaging.

We need to encourage, recognise and celebrate such new sustainable business models. The Estonian presidency will dedicate the month of October to eco-innovation. Living up to its reputation as a digital pioneer, Estonia will be organising two hackathons to find digital solutions for a circular economy and climate change.

Estonia also plans to continue a busy agenda on waste management. EU environment ministers will hold an informal meeting on 13-14 July on a number of environmental topics including a climate-resilient economy and eco-innovation. The Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre will contribute to highlighting the topic of reducing plastic marine waste in the Baltic Sea at a side event organised by the Swedish Embassy in connection with the meeting.

We can’t solve all of Europe’s problems during the six-month Estonian presidency. One hackathon or a set of Council conclusions will probably not save the world. But they can become cornerstones for bigger and better things to come. Our recent history has shown that small seeds can bear big fruits. Estonia has chosen acute topics to promote and support, and we wish it every success in contributing to a better, more beautiful and vibrant Europe.

Read other news on the city site of Tallinn.

business Europe Estonia
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
2 views in november
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Trying to keep on top of the movements of the political parties in Estonia can be a bit like herding the proverbial cats at times, particularly now we're in election season. From an "anglophone"* perspective, there are plenty of parties — around nine in all, three in government, three in opposition and three more potentially winning a few seats in March. This compares with three and a half parties in Britain (UKIP is the "half"), outside of Northern Irelan...
The opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia has in large part decided its top candidates for the March 2019 Riigikogu elections, to be officially confirmed by the party board on Friday. EKRE's top candidate for Harju and Rapla Counties, Estonia's largest electoral district, will be MP Henn Põlluaas. Party chairman Mart Helme, meanwhile, will run in the number one spot in Pärnu County. Monika Helme will top the party's election list in Lääne, Saar...
Hot on the heels of the Social Democratic (SDE) and Reform parties announcing their primary candidates in each of the 12 electoral districts at the March 2019 general election, ruling coaltion majority party Centre has done the same. Centre, from whose ranks Prime Minister Jüri Ratas comes, will run the latter in Harju and Rapla counties, with three current ministers, one MEP and the deputy head of the Riigikogu joining him as front-runners in other distri...
Prosecutor General Lavly Perling will present an overview of requests for legal help, originating from the Russian Federation, to the Riigikogu on Tuesday. Letters from Russian authorities in 2012 and 2014 reportedly made clear reference to money laundering activity and requested witness input. According to business daily Äripäev, Ms Perling confirmed the letters contained direct reference to money laundering but were confidential and their contents not or...
Coalition partner the Social Democratic party (SDE) has announced its top riders for the March 2019 elections in Estonia's 12 electoral districts, though its full list will be confirmed in December, the party says. There are no real surprises on a well-stocked list which includes the recently-attracted Indrek Tarad, currently still an independent MEP. Mr Tarand, whilst standing for SDE, has not as yet become a party member. Since the system in Estonia is a...
According to Statistics Estonia, the change of the consumer price index in October 2018 was 0.5% compared to September and 4.4% compared to October of the previous year. Goods were 3.7% and services 5.7% more expensive compared to October 2017, while regulated prices of goods and services increased by 9.1%, and non-regulated prices by 3.1%. Compared to October 2017, the consumer price index was affected the most by transport, which contributed nearly a thi...
The Ministry of Culture has rejected the request of English-language web magazine Estonian World (EW) for support from the state to to the tune of €5,000 for the remainder of 2018. The ministry has, however, promised to seek opportunities for supporting the portal in 2019. "Unfortunately, the support to this extent of English-language Estonian media outlets is not provided for in the agenda and budget of the government-approved Compatriots Programme for th...
Last Wednesday, Theatre NO99 abruptly announced that it would be closing its doors, with its final performances scheduled for November and December. The theatre will be vacating a large building at the Central Tallinn address of Sakala 3, interest in which has been expressed by Sakala Skene, a new open centre for the performing arts and theatre education. Sakala Skene is a new brand uniting Polygon Theatre and Polygon Threatre School, Old Baskin's Theatre,...
The European Athletics Council has decided to award the right to host the European Athletics Under 20 Championships in 2021 to the Estonian Athletic Association, which will stage the event at Tallinn's Kadriorg Stadium. The same format was previously successfully hosted by the Estonian Athletic Association in 2011, in collaboration with the City of Tallinn. At the European Athletics Council meeting in Budapest, the Estonian bid to host the event was presen...