In the domain “Environmental protection and supervision”, Statistics Estonia publishes statistics on environmental taxes and environmental protection expenditures of enterprises and local governments.
Environmental protection and supervision
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.
Environmental goods and services sector as a developing economic sector
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.
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.
Environmental taxes account enables analysing the taxes macroeconomically
The idea of an ecological tax reform is to decrease the taxation on labour and increase taxation on environmental pressure (pollution and use of natural resources). What are at the focus of the reform are environmental taxes as important economic instruments. In Estonia, the ecological tax reform was started in 2005, when the government approved the basic principles of the reform. It is hard to say specifically whether the raised environmental tax rates have resulted in decreased environmental pollution. However, the fallen rates of labour taxes have not decreased revenues from labour taxes.
Estonia’s sustainable development strategy “Sustainable Estonia 21” sets the target to achieve ecological balance. How well does Estonia’s economy fit in with the environment and how big is the environmental pressure of the economy seen through the lens of environmental problems?
2012 marks 20 years from the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro and ten years from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, where the elaboration and implementation of sustainable development policies was agreed as a development target. In addition to economic and social sustainability, environmental sustainability is of utmost importance.
Use of environmental charges in local governments
Due to closeness to their citizens, locality and local problems, local governments have a crucial role in changing the natural environment. On the one hand, local governments have to create conditions for developing local economy and social environment and, on the other hand, they have to stand for preserving the natural living environment. Consequently, a compromise between environmental, social and economic considerations has to be found. This means that distribution of revenue in local governments has to be based on an analysis of funding needs of different fields, establishment of priorities and finding the necessary resources.