Indicators of environmental pressure reflect the impact of human activities on the environment (antropogenic environmental pressure; environmental impact) that leads to the appearance of environmental problems.
In the light of the global sustainable development goals, Estonia faces challenges in all environmental areas
There is still much to do to achieve the environmental goals of global sustainable development: there has been success but also shortcomings. Nevertheless, the prioritisation of the environmental conservation has fostered the growth of the environmental sector, providing jobs for an increasing number of people.
Estonia is one of the most forest-rich countries in Europe – 51% of its land is forest land. In terms of forest coverage, Estonia ranks sixth after Finland, Sweden, Slovenia, Montenegro and Latvia. 27% of the total forest land is under protection. The most common tree species are pine, birch and spruce.
By 2015 the use of oil shale had increased 21% compared to 2005. During the same period, waste generation increased 34% and greenhouse gas emissions 10%. It is regrettable that while the economy has generally grown, the value added generated in the economy has increased slower than the use of resources.
The year 2015 was special in the environmental sphere. The representatives of about 200 countries signed the Paris agreement on the control of carbon emissions with the purpose of keeping global warming within the limit of 2 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era. At the same time, the UN global sustainable development action plan and 17 sustainable development goals were agreed for the next 15 years. All these goals are interlinked and balance three dimensions of sustainable development: economical, social and environmental dimensions. Estonia’s actions in ensuring and further shaping environmental protection are also focused on achieving these two agreements.
In order to preserve naturally diverse landscapes and habitats, 22% of Estonia’s territory (incl. territorial sea) is under protection. As at 31 December 2014, Estonia has 5 national parks, 148 nature conservation areas, 152 landscape conservation areas, 96 areas protected under old protection regulations, 538 parks and forest stands, 343 special conservation areas, 1,357 species protection sites, 20 natural objects protected at the local government level and 1,228 separate protected natural objects. In addition, 568 protected plant, animal, fungal, and lichen species have been included in the National Red List of Threatened Species.
More energy- and resource efficient production, following the principles of environmental production, the production of products with greater value added instead of those requiring more resources and the development of ecodesign are all measures which should ensure that, in meeting its needs, the human society would stay inside the constraints of the natural cycles. According to several wellknown scientistsa, the critical limits of planet Earth have already been exceeded in the case of the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity. Other outstanding problem areas include climate change, the acidification of oceans and exceeding the limits of the phosphorus cycle.
Estonia is a maritime country with an approximately 3,800-kilometre-long coastline, and 1,521 bigger and smaller islands. The Estonian relief is mostly flat and differences between elevations are small. However, plateaus and uplands make flat areas more interesting.
Säästva arengu näitajad. Indicators of Sustainable DevelopmentWhat progress has been made towards the four main targets of the Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development “Sustainable Estonia 21” (SE21) – growth of welfare, coherent society, viability of the Estonian cultural space and ecological balance? The publication includes 69 indicators of sustainable development that reflect the progress in key domains in Estonia. Under each indicator, there is an analysis of the current situation, an assessment of relevance in the SE21 context, and an overview of the measures defined in current development and action plans. The publication is prepared in cooperation with the Strategy Unit of the Government Office. While the main focus is on sustainable development, the publication provides a good overview of general trends in Estonia.
In terms of the environment, the biggest challenge of the 21st century on the local and international level is finding solutions to various environmental problems. Climate change, shortage of natural resources, waste in the environment, decreasing biological diversity, toxic chemicals, water pollution, shortage of water resources and air pollution are just some of the problems for which solutions are needed. Climate change has become one of the most important issues internationally. The Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth sets the following targets for the European Union (EU) for the year 2020: decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases by 20%, increase energy efficiency by 20% and ensure the coverage of 20% of the final energy demand from renewable resources.
The low population density of Estonia has favoured the diversity of our landscapes and communities. The coastline, which extends over approximately 3,800 kilometres, is indented and diverse with diff erent types of beaches. Estonia has over 1,500 islands in total and they are special because many of them provide a habitat for birds.