Estonia                                  By Tonu Lausmaa (Renewable Energy Center TAASEN)



Basic information





Mt CO2



Mt CO2



2007 %



year  %

Kyoto target



















No target




GDP Growth



GDP Growth



GDP Growth (est.) %

Gross Inland Energy Consumption Change

Feb.2009/ Feb.2008     %








Source: EEA Report No. 5/2007














Industry setbacks following the regaining of independence and the upheaval of energy resource prices led to a steep fall in GHG emissions in Estonia. After the year 2000, however, GHG emissions rose again at the rate of ca 4.1% per year to a high of 36% by 2007.  The year 2008 saw them drop again by 5.6%.  The bulk of GHG emissions (82% in 2005) comes from the energy and transport sectors. Between 2003 and 2005, the rate of GDP increase jumped to a local maximum, while GHG emissions declined; both then showed small declines until 2007.  Some positive tendencies in energy efficiency are indicated.



Public attitude towards Climate Change


  • How concerned is the public about CC?

Compared with the end of the last century, the public awareness about climate change has increased All vital statistics about GHG emissions, environmental pollution, and energy impact to the environment are available through the official sites of the Estonian Ministry of Environment as well as of the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication. In addition, there are numerous public sites dedicated to sustainable development and to the environment that promote a sustainable and healthy way of life. By contrast, climate change is almost never mentioned in everyday news. Even the global meetings on climate change are put on the back burner by the Estonian press. As Estonia has not yet endured any major environmental catastrophes that might be ascribed to climate change, there is not much concern about it. Therefore, people in Estonia take climate change as some far-away phenomenon making for interesting reading but with no real impact on their everyday lives, with the result that they feel no urgent need to take any action to mitigate it. Further, Estonia is very small country and any change in it cannot have much global influence, so the governing attitude among Estonian people is not to let themselves get carried away much about things that may lower their living standard but that nevertheless cannot introduce any significant change into the global situation. As no one has conducted any opinion poll about climate change attitudes among Estonian people, it is hard to come up with any credible quantitative estimate reflecting public concern about climate change.


  • In its concern for CC is the public concerned about changing weather and/or is there interest in UN CC policies?

Estonia has not yet experienced any major unexpected damaging environmental anomalies save some rather mild flooding and a few roof-removing tornadoes on which the effects of climate change might be impossible to identify with any certainty.  Thus, public awareness and concern about potential weather change take a back seat to other everyday worries related to the current economic recession. Possibly the only people that have any concern are winter sportsmen who might lose their facilities for sporting activities if the weather were to turn so warm as to make snow-skiing impossible. A lot of people know the meaning of the term “climate change”, but only as an academic concept that need not be taken into account in everyday business. The key driving force in national climate-change policy has been the EC directives. The interest of other stakeholders, i.e., industry and municipalities, in climate change has been related to CO2 quota-allocation plans and emission-trading schemes.


  • Does the public generally consider weather extremes (droughts, floods) as the result of human caused CC or as the natural weather cycles?

It is hard to say much about the public attitude linked to local extreme weather conditions, as the Estonian press has never asked people about this issue. But the news about these global extreme weather conditions has almost never been discussed in Estonian media in the light of climate change. These phenomena have been presented instead as environmental anomalies rather than as parts of a larger trend.


  • According to your view what share of population is considering global warming as beneficial for your country?

As the exact causes and effects of climate change for Estonia have never been discussed openly or advertised, one cannot make up one’s mind about its detrimental or beneficial impacts. Therefore this issue has remained up to now on the level of small talk, speculation, and gossip. Once some serious scientific research has been done to evaluate the scope and consequences of climate change for Estonia, Estonians will have a much needed basis on which to develop informed opinions about this phenomenon. 


  • Does the public know about Kyoto and its implication for the country?

For sure, there are quite a few people in Estonia who have never come across the term “Kyoto”. Educated people know that it has something to do with Japan and that it might be the name of a town there; and all people in environmental business are familiar with this term. Most citizens of Estonia may well remember that Kyoto has something to do with some environmental bubble but cannot define the issue in more detail. Compared with news about sporting events and politics in Estonian everyday newsreels, climate change is the ultimate underdog.


  • Would the general public be willing to make sacrifices voluntarily like paying more for energy or investing in energy efficiency in exchange for reductions of GHG emissions?

In the midst of economic recession, it is very hard to give away something if one is already financially against the wall.  Against all odds, however, many customers of the big Estonian power utility Eesti Energia have decided to switch to more expensive green energy instead of the oil-shale option. The number of these customers has reached 1200, which is still a rather tiny fraction (only 0.2 %) of all customers, but the important point is that the will is there and this tendency is gaining ground. In the present hard-hit economy, energy-saving and efficiency have gained strong impetus and popularity among householders and entrepreneurs. Therefore, there is a lot of talk about energy-saving and efficiency in Estonian media.  The number of firms rendering advice in energy-saving and efficiency measures has increased greatly.


  • Which measures have the best chances to be introduced quickly in order to reduce GHG emissions?

The bulk of GHGs come from the energy sector.  The main culprit is oil shale, the primary component in the Estonian energy system. It means that refurbishing large Estonian thermal power stations now fired with oil shale should be the first priority to reduce GHG emissions and to meet the EC emission targets. Accordingly, the refurbishing of the thermal power station Narva Elektrijaamad is in full swing, allowing the continuation of oil-shale-based electricity production but using more efficient and environmentally more benign circulating fluidized-bed oil-shale burning technology. Large potential for saving energy and, thus, for reducing GHG emissions is linked to private households. A big campaign organized by Eesti Energia on refurbishing homes to insulate them better is just under way and, on the Internet, there is much advertising of energy-saving measures and of services providing energy audits.


  • What is the public attitude towards US rejection of Kyoto Protocol?

Estonian official attitude is and has always been extremely friendly towards the US as a “big brother” from the very start of Estonian regained independence, expecting the USA to open its purse if the dire need of some financial help for Estonia may arise. Therefore in the press there are no critical articles about American behaviour whatever the case, be it action in Iraq or some other move against the will of the majority of people in other countries and continents. Public opinion in this matter has never been consulted or represented in Estonian media. 


  • Any CC "hot topics" being discussed?

The only issue that has received major attention in the Estonian media was Estonian success in the European Court against the European Commission to block change to Estonia’s emission quotas. A big media bubble was made of this process in Estonia, describing the event as some sort of national victory of tiny Estonia against a big army of hostile invaders trying to make inroads into the territory of Estonian basic interests, comparing this achievement in media figuratively as a fly soiling the back of an elephant. 



NGOs activities


  • Are the NGOs in your country visible in CC debate?

As Estonian Green Party has its fraction in the Parliament, the role of NGOs in climate-change debate has been obscured by the activities of Green Party, which has been taken as the highest in rank authority in environmental issues outside state organizations. This does not mean that NGOs in Estonia have somehow neglected the debate or that they are resting on their laurels in hope that the Green Party would do the job for them.


  • Do the NGOs serve as partners to the government in CC debate (shaping of policies)?

The Estonian Government has included NGOs in climate-change debate. In all big environmental projects in Estonia (National Environmental Strategy, Energy Masterplan, etc.), NGOs have had a chance to participate as equal partners to governmental organizations. In fact, the voices of NGOs have been strong in these debates. Even though the NGOs have managed even get some of their positions introduced into these important documents, their general share has remained rather modest. Further, compared with other debates in Estonian media, the climate-change issue has always had a very humble position. Almost all debates in Estonian media have been dedicated to some political issues or to urgent economic problems.


  • Is the IPCC 4th Report used by the NGOs as the source of information?

Yes, it is a good weapon to back the fight for a better environment for our offspring, but the Soviet era has made people rather apprehensive about big official plans and campaigns, and therefore everyday practical issues have much more weight in the minds of Estonian common people than the IPCC 4th Report. Estonian press rather often gives free microphone access to people who have absolutely negative attitudes towards climate change and who are good orators.  Such persuasive contrarian voices are likely to make people believe that all the information about and efforts to mitigate climate change represent nothing more than a well planned political move to fill the pockets of some groups of people in power.


  • What are the main measures considered by the NGOs to fight CC?

The main item to fight climate change in Estonia is renewable energy.  The resource is there; the only things needed to use it are the political will and an ethical decision to care about future generations. Energy-saving in private households and public places represents another big opportunity to fight climate change.  Estonian NGOs have much work to do in this energy-related field to change the customs and habits of people towards a healthy and environment-conscious way of life.



Media coverage of CC

The media are not focused on climate change, as capitalist economy is guided by profit and climate change is not the issue to fill the pockets of media magnates. Therefore, other than some (if any) solitary independent outcry about climate change, only the economic aspect of climate change in terms of fiscal gains and losses is covered in Estonian public press.


  • Are the media (journalists) interested in CC apart from natural disasters like flooding?

Media journalists are professionals and therefore their interest is to sell their stories whatever the topic might be. Priority is given to accidents and disasters, which are more likely to catch the eye of the general public and, thus, to sell the publications. There are only few environmentally conscious journalists to cover climate change in more detail, working hard to change the public attitudes towards climate change and towards related energy-saving and energy-production efficiency issues.


  • Have you found in the media any information on future targets (post Kyoto)?

The EC “Energy package” has not been discussed in the media.  It is considered too specific for general audiences. Therefore, it is likely to be understood only by a narrow circle of climate-change pundits either in governmental offices or in NGOs. 


  • Do you think that journalists understand the process? Do they need to be educated?

Of course, journalists focused on the environment know of the subtleties of climate change, but others simply ignore the topic as falling out of their purview. Journalists in Estonia are more inclined to refer foreign articles on climate change than to have their personal say in this problem.


  • Is there any information on adaptation to CC available for the public?

There are some private studies dedicated to adaptations to climate change but public access to them is rather limited. There is very little discussion of any need for adaptation measures in Estonia and of the form(s) that these measures should take. 


  • What is the best domestic source of information on CC (in national language)?

The best source is undoubtedly the home site of the Estonian Ministry of Environment. Next is the home site of the Institute of Sustainable Estonia. These sites are meant for people who are already somewhat familiar with this subject. In addition to these two resources, quite a few NGO sites are dedicated to a healthy and sustainable way of life, focused on educating people with rather different scholastic backgrounds and requiring almost no initial knowledge to absorb the information. Such sites are excellent learning aids to the public, providing as much or as little detail as the visitor is prepared to accept.


  • Did the media inform the public about the IPCC 4th Report outcomes?

The Estonian media couldn’t ignore the outcome entirely but didn’t consider this to be a big enough issue to be entitled to cover the front pages. Therefore the NGOs had to do their best to bring the outcome of the Report to a larger audience.



Policies and Measures


  • Has the government started a public discussion on post-2012 targets?

No public discussion on the post-Kyoto issue has taken place in Estonia. As the target of 40% reduction was achieved already some ten years ago, the main focus is to develop the economy without increasing the emission level. But it is a rather tall task and requires restructuring the industrial and energy systems.



EU Effort-Sharing

  • What is the position of your country regarding this and regarding its national GHG reduction target?

The Estonian Government is mainly focused on fighting to raise pollution-allowance levels to maintain the oil-shale-based electricity production as the main primary domestic energy resource for the Estonian economy, competitive with other options, instead of substantially increasing the renewable-energy share in domestic energy production and decreasing the energy dependence on the Estonian industrial product. Now the Government has announced its intention to enter into the emission-trading scheme to fill the gaps in its recession-time budget. 


  • Will the NGOs support the EC proposal, or higher or lower targets?

All the national environmental NGOs who are familiar with the EC targets support them. They are not happy, however, that this 30% emission reduction target was not made mandatory for the whole EU.


  • Will the public (including media & independent voices) support the EC proposal, or higher or lower targets?

Concerning the EC targets, the attitude of people depends much of their respective positions in society. Almost every entrepreneur who is focused on profit cannot see much difference between some other restrictions to his success and limitations based on the climate-change targets. Therefore he or she is all for having the targets as low as possible to ensure higher profits. The Government, defending the interests of entrepreneurs (almost all members of Estonian Parliament have some ties with business, either small or large) is for lower targets as well. Only a tiny minority whose welfare does not depend on these targets and who understand the significance of the fight for better living conditions for future generations supports higher targets. Most people are not much concerned, as the topic is still too far from their primary needs and everyday problems. Therefore, the majority simply takes climate-change targets as some academic political tool to improve one’s position on the ladder of politics. 


Emission-trading scheme

  • Is the ETS as the way to GHG reduction openly supported by the government and industry?

The Estonian government is mainly concerned about was in which to profit by this emission-trading scheme.  It does not think earnestly about the future of the next generations. This attitude comes as no surprise, as the Government is rather tightly linked to big business.


  • Do you know about companies participating in the ETS that earned huge profits in your country? Is this publicly known?

It is publicly known that within the time interval 2005 – 2007 the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia got 83 % of the CO2 quota allotted to Estonia. In 2005 part of the quota was not used by Eesti Energia due to application of a more effective electricity network and therefore the emission of GHG was lower than anticipated. Therefore, selling the unused quotas, Eesti Energia earned a pofit of some 22 million EUR.


  • According to the IPCC, Annex I Parties will need to reduce GHG emissions by “between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels” for the period beyond 2012. Do you see this as realistic for your country?

Due to big changes in the structure of Estonian industry, GHG emissions and air pollution have dropped radically in Estonia. Therefore the first obligation according to the Kyoto protocol of decreasing the GHG emission by 8% by the year 2012 compared with the base year 1990 has been not only achieved but exceeded. Comparison between the years 1990 and 2007 shows CO2 emission reduction by 40% and therefore the target for the period beyond 2012 has been achieved already in Estonia as well. It is not clear, though, that Estonia can keep the emissions as low as in 2007 for the many years to come as it needs a lot of effort to develop one’s economy without increasing the CO2 emission level.


  • What is the government doing to inform the public on how to reduce GHG emissions: how to save energy, which and how renewable energy (RE) can be introduced?

The main topic in governmental campaigns about GHG emission reduction has been focused on energy-saving methods through better house insulation and using more economic household gadgets. There have been many campaigns to refurbish old residential houses to meet the higher energy-conservation standards. Company Eesti Energia has done a good job of informing its clients about the feasible methods of energy-saving. In addition to that there are quite a few internet sites promoting energy-saving and sustainable energy. Renewable energy has not been represented much in governmental campaigns, as the living standard in Estonia is not high enough that even private citizens can carry out renewable projects either for their domestic needs or even providing the service for their neighbours as well. 


  • What are the measures in force for promoting RE, e.g., feed-in tariffs for RE electricity?

According to the Law of Estonian Electricity Market, any kind of renewable energy should be bought by electricity utilities at the feed-in tariff of 0.074 EUR/kWh, which is much higher than the Eesti Energia feed-out tariff  of 0.048 EUR/kWh for small users. This makes renewable energy production in Estonia economically feasible. A new trend in wind-energy production uses small household wind turbines up to 15 kW.  These are produced in Estonia and therefore are much less expensive than imported turbines from the neighbouring industrial EU countries.


  • What are the measures in force for promoting energy savings ?

Energy saving has received good representation in public news about the Estonian economic system. It is much more widely discussed than renewable energy or some other aspect of sustainable development. For instance, starting from the first half of the year 2009, a set of new energy-saving measures for apartment houses has been introduced.  It consists of a subsidy of 20 Million EUR and a foreign investment with the state guarantee of 32 Million EUR through banks, which make up 0.3 % of entire Estonian GDP. Company Eesti Energia, through its information leaflets, has done a good job of introducing various options in energy savings for private households, providing not only information but professional service as well to conduct energy audits and to discover the inadequacies of existing energy insulation. 



  • What is the main progress in energy savings and RE introduction that is visible in recent years?

From the date of June, 2009, all residents in apartment houses can get a loan from banks to improve the insulation of their apartments, which makes these residences more energy-efficient and lowers their heating costs. As the energy consumption of Estonian apartments is about 220 kWh/m2, while in Finland and Sweden this parameter is only 150 kWh/m2, a large energy-saving potential is available to Estonians through introducing energy-saving measures for their apartments and households. By the end of June, the total cost of loan contracts already signed or in progress was already more than 6 million EUR. It shows that the Estonian population responded well to this initiative.

In spite of the fact that at the moment renewable energy covers only 1.7% of the electricity production in Estonia, all the renewable-energy projects in progress now, if completed successfully, would raise the renewable energy share in electricity production to more than 800 GWh by the year of 2010.  Thus, already it would account for more than 10% of the total electricity production.


  • How do you see chances of RE and energy savings against the fossil fuels in your country?

Estonia has a large wind-energy potential of roughly 200 – 400 MW.  The share of wind energy in electricity production in Estonia could be about 10 %. At the moment, there are some two dozen wind turbines installed in various places in Estonia with total production power of about 22 MW, which is about 1% of the total electricity production in Estonia. It means that there is still a very demanding task looming ahead to take advantage of the substantial bulk of this potential. Estonian bio-energy potential is rather large as well, being annually about 20 TWh with the present state of the agricultural structure.


  • Which new fossil-fuel power plants are under construction?

According to the Estonian Electricity Master Plan 2008 – 2018, there are four different development scenarios based on renovation of the big oil-shale-fired thermal power plants in northeastern Estonia, installing gas-fired and cogeneration plants together with renewable energy and nuclear power.

According to the first scenario, in addition to 2 blocks of oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers (2 x 315 MW), which have been operational since 2005, 200 MW cogeneration plants fired by different fuels, 100 MW gas-fired power plants, 250 MW wind turbines, and a small nuclear power plant in Finland, Lithuania or Estonia will be installed.

According to the second scenario, in addition to 2 blocks of oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers (2 x 315 MW), which have been on-line since 2005, 200 MW cogeneration plants fired by different fuels and 1200 MW wind turbines will be installed.

According to the third scenario, in addition to 2 blocks of oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers (2 x 315 MW), which have operated since 2005, 2 more oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers (2 x 300 MW), 200 MW cogeneration plants fired by different fuels, 400 MW gas-fired power plants, and 400 MW wind turbines will be installed.

According to the fourth scenario, in addition to 2 blocks of oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers (2 x 315 MW), which have been in operation since 2005, 200 MW cogeneration plants fired by different fuels, 400 MW gas-fired power plants, 400 MW wind turbines, and 800 MW oil-shale-fired circulating fluidized-bed boilers in Narva thermal power plants will be installed.


  • Which fossil-fuel power plants are being refurbished?

Instead of installing new fossil-fuel power plants, the Estonian Government has decided to refurbish already existing oil-shale-fired thermal power plants, using new contemporary circulating fluidized-bed oil-shale-burning technology, which has less impact on the environment and is more efficient in terms of energy conversion.


  • Is “clean coal” burning being proposed as an option?

Estonia does not have coal-fired thermal power stations but instead has only oil-shale-fired power stations. The new more efficient and more environmentally benign technology is oil-shale burning, using circulating fluidized-bed technology.


  • Is nuclear power considered by the government as an option for GHG emission reduction?

The more time passes, the more powerful are the voices that claim there is no other option for Estonia in the long run but nuclear power.  Advocates present nuclear power as “clean” and “environmentally benign”, and it has been put forward as an option in the Estonian Electricity Master Plan 2008 – 2018. Recently, the Estonian press published several articles by rather prominent figures in politics and big business in favour of building a nuclear power plant in Estonia or at least of participating in a joint effort to have the new nuclear power station put into operation in some neighbouring country.


Other information


  • Who are the main stake holders and governmental bodies responsible for CC process in your country?

The main governmental bodies responsible for climate-change processes in Estonia are Estonian Ministry of the Environment, Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, and Estonian Environment Information Center. The official legal structure for promoting sustainable development in Estonia is as follows:


The fight of these governmental institutions to secure climate-change targets is supported by all NGOs whose main priority is a healthy and sustainable way of life. Among these NGOs, the Institute of Sustainable Estonia has a rather influential voice.


  • Domestic web address where relevant (incl. governmental) data can be found?

Estonian Ministry of the Environment (,

Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication (,

Estonian Environment Information Center (,

Regional Environmental Center of Estonia (,

Institute of Sustainable Estonia (