Latvia                                              By Alda Ozola (Latvian Green Movement, Latvia)


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


The collapse of industry after regaining of independence and a significant increase of energy-resource prices led to the decline of GHG emissions.  Emissions have been rising again since 2000 at a rate of ca. 3% to 4% a year, as the GDP has increased at about 6% to 10% per year, showing some decoupling between GDP growth and energy consumption.  The increase is related mostly to emissions in the transport sector, the only one in which emissions exceed those of 1990.


Several scenarios elaborated by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy foresee GDP growth at various levels with expectations of increases in GHG emissions.  Even the high-growth scenario, however, envisages that by 2020 Latvia will not exceed the Kyoto target of GHG emission reduction that requires decreasing GHG emissions by 8% compared to 1990. Most of Latvia’s GHG emissions arise from the energy (heat and electricity generation) sector, comprising 45% of total emissions; 32% emissions are from transport; the rest are from agriculture, waste management, and other processes.


Public attitude towards Climate Change


More and more information is appearing in printed and electronic media about climate change, increasing the likelihood that public awareness of climate change is rising steadily. Significant flow of information started approximately in 2007 and has continued throughout 2008.

Thus far, there has been one national level public survey done on CC. It was carried out in February of 2008 by the marketing and public opinion research centre “SKDS” under the auspices of Latvia’s Presidential Strategic Analysis commission, to discover the public’s opinions on global warming and climate change.


More than 51% of the Latvian residents polled admitted that they were lacking information about global warming and climate change, while 40% assessed their knowledge and awareness as sufficient or good. Public awareness is comparatively low because there are no dramatic climate change effects observed in Latvia and because the available information is presented in a form too technical and scientific to be understandable to the public. There is also clear correlation between level of education and awareness of global climate change. In the group of respondents with solely primary education, only 29% assessed their awareness level as sufficient; in the group with secondary education, 38%; while in the group of respondents with higher education, 54% said that they possessed sufficient information about CC. People over 55 years old, non-citizens, those with low incomes, and jobless people are less informed about CC than average. More than 77% of respondents get their information about CC from television, 54% from printed media, 39% from radio, 19% from the Internet, and 4% from their own observations. There is no widespread public debate about CC issues. Although there is more and more information on CC in the media, most people, even decision-makers, do not consider CC to be a crucial issue for Latvia. On the contrary, often there are heard several arguments about possible benefits from global warming such as lower expenses for heating, longer growing seasons, warmer summers, etc.


It would be inaccurate to assert that the public is really concerned about CC. The sociologists commenting on the outcome of the public opinion research explain that one of the most important reasons why people are not concerned is because “Latvia is not in the epicentre of the climate change impacts”, such that no dramatic changes can be observed in nature. That being said, people do tend to associate various extreme weather events such as storms, excessive rains, droughts, and warmer winters (almost no snow during the last few years) with the impacts of global climate change. Politically, the key driving forces for national CC policy have been mostly external, i.e., the EU policies and discussions of the EC’s proposed “Climate and energy package” (CEP) when various stakeholders expressed their views on the latter. The interest of other stakeholders, i.e., industry and municipalities, in CC has been related to CO2 quota allocation plans.


There hasn’t been a public survey to clarify this issue.  Judging by the opinions that appear in media, it seems likely that the public tends to consider weather extremes as a result of CC but fails to link it with human activities or strongly underestimates the anthropogenic impacts on global climate.


There haven’t been separate questions addressed on this topic in Latvian public-opinion research.  A reading of various comments and opinions that dominate in media conveys the impression that more than half of the people, including politicians and energy experts, believe that global warming is/would be beneficial for Latvia. According to my estimation this view might be held by as much as 50% to 60% of the public, while at least 1/3 of population doesn’t have any particular opinion on this.


Yes, the name of Kyoto is known to the public; however, they have no deeper knowledge of or interest in it because Latvia can easily fulfil Kyoto requirements even without any additional measures or policies.


Paying more voluntarily is not very likely to happen, especially now when the prices of electricity and heat are steadily increasing. However, people are looking for cost-efficient ways to reduce their energy consumption in order to decrease their expenditures and heat requirements.  Insulation of buildings to reduce energy losses is becoming popular. Thus, energy-saving measures have direct impact on reducing GHG emissions.


In the case of Latvia, the biggest challenge is to reduce GHG emissions in so called non-ETS sectors such as transport, agriculture, and waste management. To achieve considerable reductions in those sectors a complex set of policies and tools are needed.  Elaboration, adoption and implementation of those may not happen in short term. The best chances would be to invest in energy efficiency, especially in private households. This kind of policy measure would be supported by the public, as it allows them to decrease expenditures for heating; by other stakeholders, as energy consumption in private households is really a challenge and is crucial part of managing total GHGs; and by government, as it would be a politically supportable decision. 


This is rather an issue among energy experts and decision-makers.  It is used as an argument or excuse for not making new commitments to reduce GHG emissions. The public in general is not very much interested or concerned about it especially because Latvia has no problem meeting the Kyoto target.


The most visible issue related to CC in 2008 was related to EC proposal for “Climate and Energy package” and reactive remarks from politicians, industry and other stakeholders, as CEP, if approved, would imply the need to implement tough policies to reduce GHG emissions in non-ETS sectors.

While there has been also very active debate on energy security and on the need to increase domestic electricity production, the link to CC in discussing these proposals has been only vague.


NGOs activities


First of all, there is not very active debate on CC policy in Latvia and it takes place within a rather narrow circle of engaged stakeholders; but NGOs are recognized as meaningful partners in this debate. Still, NGO activities in relation to CC may not be visible to the general public.


There is a certain space for NGO participation in the debate, i.e., NGOs were invited to comment on National Environmental strategy, where climate change was one of the chapters and that would serve as a basis for shaping national CC policy. Similarly, there was space for NGO involvement in discussing national allocations of CO2 emission quotas.  NGOs were invited as well to provide opinions and input during preparation of a national position towards the EC’s proposed “Climate and energy package”.


Yes, environmental NGOs use the IPCC report to support arguments about the role of anthropogenic impacts in causing global CC and as a reference on possible trends and impacts on different regions.



Considering that Latvia has already good scores in terms of use of RES (about 36% in primary energy balance and about 45-48% in electricity production) key focus of environmental NGOs is on energy efficiency (EE) measures such as heat insulation, increase of efficiency in production and decrease of losses in transmission process.


Media coverage of CC


There are more and more articles and interviews appearing about CC issues, contributing to a rising awareness among the members of the public. The media describe CC processes, causes and possible impacts, but also interview officials working in environmental fields to air their opinions about how CC is related to Latvia and what Latvian inhabitants might expect.


The EC “Energy package” has been a subject of discussion in the media. However, the burden-sharing issue and new commitments are somewhat too specific, attracting the attention of a rather narrow circle of stakeholders, i.e., energy experts, industry, a few politicians and environmental NGOs. 


While most of them have sufficient awareness of CC, their knowledge is limited, as CC is rather a low priority issue in political agendas and public perception.


Theoretically there are several publicly available studies of adaptation and mitigation measures to CC. Despite some expert opinions that are published now and then, overall there is very little discussion of whether and what adaptation measures would be needed for Latvia and of what their implications would be for particular sectors such as agriculture or fisheries.


There are several information sources about CC that contribute to awareness-raising and that help to explain the causes and impacts of CC. It is difficult to name just one or two of them, as those websites are run by NGOs, environmental educators, schools and other initiative groups. Still, the public opinion research showed that a majority of inhabitants (77%) get information about CC from TV; 54% from printed media; 39% from radio; and only 19% from the Internet. In terms of available data about GHG emissions in Latvia and about national CC policy, the best information source is the website of the Ministry of Environment.  It provides statistical data, reports and national policy documents. However, this website attracts the interest of concerned stakeholders but not of the general public.


This has not been an issue on which the media have reported specifically. However, references to the last IPCC report (2007) are often made by NGOs and other stakeholders who express their opinion in media and who want to underline that there is already scientific consensus about anthropogenic impacts on CC as well as to refer to possible impacts.


Policies and Measures


There is no public discussion on the theme of post-Kyoto. Up to now GHG emissions are far below the baseline of 1990 and meeting our Kyoto target has never been an issue in Latvia. There has been more focus on 2020, as it is included in the EU’s “Climate & Energy package” proposal.  Debate was focused on whether increasing the share of RES and GHG emissions to the level proposed by EU is feasible.


EU Effort Sharing

Latvian authorities have criticised the methodology for effort-sharing and have also disputed the data about current share of RES in primary energy balance that was used as a basis for calculating the commitments that Latvia will be obliged to take.  The Ministry of Environment was satisfied that a 17% emission increase is allowed in non-ETS sectors; however, the Ministry also points to the fact that very tough policies and measures will be required in order not to exceed that level. 


Those few national environmental NGOs that are following the CC policy debate have expressed support for the EC proposal. They agree about the RES share in the primary energy balance. However, NGOs were also asking to have a 30% emission reduction made mandatory for the whole EU even if other parties can’t reach an immediate agreement.


There has not been wide public discussion about specific targets that the EC proposal implies. However, the public might be rather supportive about the need to decrease transport-related emissions. Experts that have assessed the available potentials for renewable energy sources are supportive.  The only thing that is lacking is political will from the government and Ministry of Economy to introduce a set of measures that would ensure necessary reduction of GHG emissions by shifting consumption and production patterns.


Emission trading system

The government is in favour of ETS.  Most industry representatives support emission-trading on the conditions that everybody is involved in this and that the CO2 quota-allocation process is fair and transparent.  Unfortunately, that was not the case when national allocation plans were being prepared for the period of 2008-2012.  There is now full support both from government and industry as well as from NGOs to step away from national allocation plans and to move to EU-wide allocations and ETS.


Yes, it is publicly known. The biggest windfall profits were earned by the national electricity utility Latvenergo when they sold their emission quotas, earning about 20 million EUR. There are also some other companies in the sectors of heat producers and some industries that earned rather huge profits from selling their excess quotas for the period 2005-2007.


If the reference year is still 1990 as originally stated in the Convention, then it is fully feasible for Latvia to achieve this target. However one has to admit that keeping total GHG emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels would require implementation of strong governmental policies and cross-sectoral measures, i.e., to limit and/or reduce emissions from the transport sector, agriculture, etc. Regarding the political will and strength of government to push for emission reductions, I’m inclined to think that any progress in this regard will depend on EU policies and on the degree of push from EU. Thus far, energy prices have increased due to economic and geopolitical reasons; nonetheless, the electricity price for private households is among the lowest in EU. Increases in energy prices have contributed significantly to the increase in public awareness of the need to use local RES and have promoted introduction (or planning) of energy-efficiency measures.


There is more and more information appearing in media as well as from decision-makers (politicians, municipalities, energy companies) about the need to apply energy-efficiency measures. There are also positive examples available showing what can be done and how it was done, as reported by the media, that serve as encouragement to others.  The key driving force, however, is the increasing energy prices. This is certainly not enough in itself, but it helps raise awareness and builds understanding. However, there is a lack of support in the form of soft measures as well as in co-financing to promote energy efficiency.



Currently there are feed-in tariffs applied to the electricity produced from wind turbines built until 2002, as well as to electricity produced in co-generation plants and in small hydropower plants. In 2007 new support measures were introduced for RES such as wind, small hydro and biomass, with the only exception of solar energy. There is also financing from EU funds available to support initial investments in biomass power plants as well as for wind turbines and for energy- efficiency measures in the social housing sector. Apart from those financial measures and support schemes, there is also some institutional framework in place aimed to provide information both for households and for businesses on the use of RES, EE and best practices in other countries.


In Latvia, the main way to promote EE is mostly through informative campaigns (for instance run by the Ministry of Environment, but also by other stakeholders). There is also a lot about EE being published in printed media where different actors provide advice, explain the economic rationale, and share experiences. There was some funding available from EU funds for industry to support increase of EE and modernization of equipment. Otherwise there are no special loans or subsidies to promote EE; i.e., the private entities or communities need to approach commercial banks to get a loan.


There has been considerable progress in reducing heat-energy losses in the transmission process from about 35% to about 14% - 17%. This was possible with public investments in the municipal heating sector.


Latvia now has a comparatively high share of RES both in electricity production and in primary energy balance. This share is expected to decrease in relation to overall growth of energy consumption where fossil energy sources (mostly deployed in transport sector) meet a higher percentage of demand.


There are no such plants.


Coal power plant in Liepaja, 400 MWel; no heat production (the plant is expected to operate in condensation mode).There is currently a feasibility study underway, with completion expected in November 2008. Then, the Cabinet of Ministers will assess it and are expected to decide whether to go forward with this project. E.ON and some other West-European companies are named as possible investors. The Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is expected to start in 2009.


Yes, a plan for a coal power plant is being discussed and pushed forward with strong support from Ministry of Economy and Cabinet of Ministers. This would be a coal power plant using 90% coal and about 10% biomass working in the condensation regime with the total installed capacity for electricity generation of 400 MW. This power plant would be adjusted to deploy CCS technology. There are no direct governmental subsidies expected but there is a motion to provide stated guarantees for buying of electricity produced at this plant.


No, nuclear energy is not discussed in the context of CC policies in Latvia. It is linked to the fact that a large share of electricity is produced using RES. Moreover the primary challenges for reduction of GHG emissions are related to transport, heating, waste management, and agriculture sectors; nuclear has no role to play there. However, Latvia is considering joining the joint project of three Baltic countries and Poland to build a new NPP in Lithuania.


Other information


It is fully the responsibility of the Latvian Ministry of Environment to prepare reports and overviews as well as to elaborate policies and national positions used during negotiations with EU and the UN. In formal terms, the Cabinet of Ministers and, hence, other ministries such as Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Transport also play a role here, as they need to approve national positions and strategy papers (policies, programmes) that are prepared by Ministry of Environment.


Latvian Ministry of Environment (

Latvian agency for environment, Vides agentura