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Sustainable Development in Estonia


The legal basis for sustainable development in Estonia is provided by the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, which entered into force in 1992. The faili ikoon Act on Sustainable Development was approved in 1995 and accordingly long-term plans on sustainable development are to be elaborated in the energy, transport, agriculture, forestry, tourism, chemical industry, building materials industry and food industry sectors.

Estonian Commission on Sustainable Development was founded in 1996 as an advisory body to the Government on the issues of sustainable development. The task of the Commission is to analyse the policy of the state on sustainable development and to make proposals to the Government and to state and local government institutions ensuring synergy among developments in the economy, social affairs and environmental areas. Commission also has the right to propose drafting legislation and organising research on the subject.

Commission supervised the development of the Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development – „Sustainable Estonia 21“, which was approved by the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) in September 2005.

faili ikoon Sustainable Estonia 21 is an integral conception which is clearly focused on sustainability of long-term development of the Estonian state and society until the year 2030. The general development goal of the country is to integrate the requirement to be successful in global competition with a sustainable development model and preservation of the traditional values of Estonia.

According to the Strategy the long-term goals for the development of the society are:
* Viability of the Estonian cultural space
* Growth of welfare
* Coherent society
* Ecological balance

First report on the state of the implementation of the Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development was compiled and presented to the Government in 2008.  The report (available in Estonian) included a review of the principle activities necessary in implementing the strategy and an analysis of the attainment of the objectives set by the strategy.

Implementation and reporting processes of the Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development are co-ordinated by the Strategy Bureau of the State Chencellery since 2006. All related ministries and other institutions are responsible for implementing of the sustainable development goals, monitoring and reporting in their respective fields. In order to cover the cross-cutting issues and inter-linkages an inter-ministerial working group at the Deputy Secretary General level was established in 2007.

One of the key challenges of sustinable development is introduction of the combined conception of nature as a value and as a central development resource of the society in the context of overall development of Estonia. The overall aim of the maintenance of ecological balance in the nature of Estonia is to integrate the considerations of self-regeneration capacity of nature into the use of nature. The main function of environmental protection is to achieve harmonious and balanced management of resources and the natural environment in the interests of the Estonian society.

faili ikoon Estonian Environmental Strategy 2030 builds upon the principles of the “Sustainable Estonia 21” and serves as the basis for the preparation and revision of all sector-specific development plans within the sphere of the environment. The Strategy was approved by the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) in 2005 and it defines long-term development trends for maintaining a good status of the natural environment, while keeping in mind the links between the environment, economic and social spheres and overal impact on the natural environment and people. faili ikoon National Environmental Action Plan for Estonia for 2007-2013 serves as the implementation plan of the Strategy.

Governance in the environmental field bases on the reliable environmental information and for that purpose generalised data on the Estonian nature, state of the environment and different influencing factors are provided by Estonian Environment Information Centre
Additional objective information service on the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation as well as trends in Estonia is provided by Statistics Estonia
Interlinkages and the core set of sustainability indicators on maps for European countries, regions and counties of Estonia as well as the performance valuation of countries, regions and counties can be found at Dashboard of Sustainability.

Estonia's own experience proves that economic growth and environmentally sustainable path of development can be achieved if relevant measures are applied both at national as well as local levels. There are lot of best practices and faili ikoon good examples of co-operation in rural areas in the sustainable development field from all over Estonia which we would like to share.

Estonian co-operation in the sustainable development field

European Union sustainable development process is regulated within the framework of the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development
Tha Strategy was renewed in 2006 and it deals in an integrated way with economic, environmental and social issues. Estonia contributes to the EU level implementation process and first national report was compiled in 2007.

In the environmental field the EU Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community 2002-2012 (
introduces the concept of Thematic Strategies which
build on the existing EU legal and regulatory framework and include new knowledge on threats to human health and the environment. Thematic Strategies cover the following fields: air, waste prevention and recycling, marine environment, soil, pesticides, natural resources and urban environment and they will be reviewed in 2010. Respective fields in Estonia are managed by relevant Departments of the Ministry (

In 2010 the European Union growth strategy for the coming decade Europe 2020
was adopted. European Union wants to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and has set five ambitious objectives - on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy - to be reached by 2020. Estonian 2020 materials can be found here

The Baltic Sea Region is a highly heterogeneous area in economic, environmental and cultural terms and actions in one area have consequences for all others. Therefore Baltic Sea Region acts as a model of regional co-operation where new ideas and approaches will be developed. European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
was adopted in 2009 and the four cornerstones of the Strategy are to make this part of Europe more:  Environmentally sustainable (e.g. reducing pollution in the sea); Prosperous (e.g. promoting innovation in small and medium enterprises); Accessible and attractive (e.g. better transport links); Safe and secure (e.g. improving accident response).

Estonia is participating in the sustainable development co-operation Baltic Agenda 21 which was launced by the 11 Baltic Sea Region countries in 1998. Baltic 21 contributes achieving sustainable development and environmental goals of the Council of the Baltic Sea States
by initiating and implementing the co-operation projects. 

Estonian active partnership at the global level sustainable development process started at the UN Conference on Environment and Development -Rio Conference-
in 1992. At the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002
commitment for implementation of the Agenda 21 and Millennium Development Goals were renewed and Estonian National Report on Sustainable Development 2002 was presented. In 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will be held on themes Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication and Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and general review in the field of faili ikoon Green Economy is compiled as part of the Estonian preparation process.

UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)
co-ordinates policies and activities at the global level on the bases of the CSD multi-year programme of work
The program is divided into working cycles in which the thematic clusters of issues will be addressed in an integrated manner, taking into account economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Estonia is member of the Commission and contributes to the implementation of the multi-year programme of work. In own activities we follow the principle that goal-oriented implementation of agreed global targets support national efforts, send positive signal to the regional level and this in turn adds value to the global sustainable development process itself.