On March 9th, 2020, Zaļā brīvība was invited in Tallinn, Estonia, to meet other NGOs addressing climate change issues in the Baltic region. A fruitful meeting with our Finnish, Estonian, and Lithuanian counterparts.

This day was an opportunity for us to meet various Estonian actors (Fridays for FutureGreen MovementFund for NatureEnvironmental Law CentreGreen TigerCooperation AssemblyBaltic Environmental Forum) but also a representative of the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations, and a representative from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.
After an overview of the political situation in our respective countries, we discussed an array of topics related to climate and sought cooperation in the near future.

About the political situation, our governments have decided to support the European Union (EU) target of Climate neutrality by 2050 (net-zero greenhouse gas emissions comparing to 1990 emission levels). However, the official Estonian national target is still – 80% by 2050. In this way, the Estonian government agrees with an EU target but not a national target, due to the country’s dependence on oil shale. Also, only Finland adopted a national Climate law as of now (April 3rd, 2020); the Latvian national climate law is in the making process.

The peat industry has been identified as a common issue in our territories. As a reminder, peat is a highly organic material. It can be used as a soil improver, and when dried, it can be burned like a fossil fuel (the carbon dioxide emission intensity of peat is higher than that of coal and natural gas, source). Because the formation of peat takes place over several thousand years, it can be considered as a non-renewable resource: the average peat accumulation is around 1 mm per year (source). Also, even after extraction, drained peatlands continue to emit previously locked-in greenhouse gases. Hence, the peat industry causes irreparable destruction (loss of biodiversity), releases of sequestered carbon, and a decrease in agricultural productivity in the long term.

Tallinn - March 2020: Krista Pētersone doing her presentation on the political situation in LatviaKrista Pētersone, CEE Bankwatch Network coordinator at Zaļā brīvība, doing her presentation on the political situation in Latvia.

Then, Hanna Aho, from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, introduced us to Finland’s Climate-neutrality target by 2035. She is advocating for a + 1,5°C target compatible policy, with an essential role of natural carbon sinks, which would have her country playing a significant role by 2050: « Finland that cools the climate.» There is something for us to be inspired by this and their level of climate ambition. Hanna Aho invited us to have high profile scientists to back us up.

The second presentation was made on national Climate law by Kadi Kaisa, from the Environmental Law Centre. She suggested that a « good climate law » should precisely answer to those five following questions: 1) What are the short term and long term goals? (example: carbon budget for each year, for the decade, and the next 30 years); 2) How do we get there? (what are the instructions); 3) Who is responsible? (examples: ministries, regional/local authorities, etc); 4) How do we measure progress? (examples: regular assessment); 5) Who is involved? (example: participation of NGOs and citizens, science councils, etc).

The last presentation was made on citizens’ assemblies, by Teele Pehk from Green Tiger. She referred to a document by the Innovative Citizen Participation Network of the OECD. According to this document, the « Good practices » are: 1) purpose: clear remit linked to a defined public problem; 2) impact: public decisions with a commitment from the public decision-makers to respond/act; 3) respect; 4) representativeness: random selection and demographic stratification, in order to achieve a « microcosm of the general public »; 5) inclusiveness: no discrimination and equal opportunities; 6) information: wide range of evidence and expertise (no interest groups lobbying); 7) deliberation; 8) time; 9) independence: process run by an independent coordinating team; 10) transparency; 11) visibility and 12) evaluation: an anonymous evaluation by the participants to assess the project. Teele Pehk invited us to follow her Estonian initiativeMoreover, about citizens’ assembly on climate, here is a focus on the one happening in France I wrote in February.

Finally, we shared additional good practices and discussed how to cooperate more between Baltic-Finnish NGOs.

PS: Recently, Kestutis Kupsys, from the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organisations, mentioned that only a month has passed since our meeting, but: « it already seems we are living in a completely different Europe and different world. »

Krista Petersone and Matthias Boyer in Tallinn (March 2020)

We wish everyone to stay home and healthy.