The results of reviewing the implementation of the Estonian environmental policy (EIR) show that environmental standards are being followed quite well in Estonia. The area of eco-innovation has developed significantly fast but problems arise in waste handling and the resource intensity of the industry.
“At the beginning of March, we examined the environmental performance review of the OECD and as luck would have it, we are ending the month with going over the European Commission’s review of the implementation of Estonian environmental policy and legislation. Both expert assessments and recommendations are important to us, as these will guide us in our future work,” said Marko Pomerants, Minister of the Environment, and added that because the review is compiled for each member state at one point, this will allow us to compare and exchange experiences with other states. According to Pomerants, European ministers of the environment have already discussed first impressions over lunch.
As positive aspects, the European Commission points out that the quality of air and water in Estonia is good and quality drinking water is accessible. In addition, Estonia can be characterised by high biodiversity, which is why the Commission considers one of Estonia’s greatest achievements the fact that over 50% of its habitats and species assessments are reported as favourable. The Commission regards the funding of Estonian Natura 2000 sites from different EU funds as especially successful. This has been separately highlighted as good practice that other member states should learn from.
According to the assessment of the European Commission, the area of eco-innovation has also developed rapidly in Estonia. This area includes a strong start-up company culture and support structures offering start-up assistance. In addition, universities, the public sector, and enterprises are cooperating much more efficiently in the area of eco-innovation.
“Eco-innovation will be one of the hottest topics in the next few years and not just in Estonia. In order to raise the quality of life of our people and the environment, we must turn current dogmas and habits upside down and plant new ideas. Turning your nose up at eco-prefixed matters is no longer trendy, so I recommend seeing and using the great opportunities they allow,” said Pomerants.
As two main problems, the European Commission highlights the resource intensity of the industry and waste handling. To be more specific, Estonia is one of the most resource intense EU states and must work hard to improve its industry to allow it to withstand the growing resource costs. A situation has appeared in waste management, in which there are more options for the incineration and mechanical-biological treatment of waste than there is mixed municipal waste in Estonia. This, however, may influence meeting the objective of recycling municipal waste.
“We have taken steps in developing circular economy and increasing resource efficiency, but it is clear that these areas require even more attention and the mentalities of people, as well as of the industry must change. For example, the refuse collection service must be significantly cheaper for those who collect waste by type than for those who do not. Enterprises need to review their production processes and find solutions that would provide a better result for a lower cost,” said Pomerants. To make enterprises more resource efficient, a resource efficiency measure has been established, through which European Union aid in the amount of 111 million will be invested.
The European Commission reviewed the implementation of environmental policies of all European Union member states for the first time. Henceforth, they will do so every two years. The objective of these reviews is to promote a positive debate on the topic of environmental problems common to all EU member states as well as on what would be the most efficient way for each member state to eliminate main implementation gaps and improve environmental results. Estonia was the first member state to hold an EIR country dialogue to look over the implementation of the environmental policy.