News

First climate petition in Estonia: Fridays For Future launched a legal challenge against construction of new oil shale plant

Author: Heiko Kruusi, Õhtuleht Kirjastus Ltd.

Fridays For Future Estonia

PRESS RELEASE

April 28, 2020

[PRESS RELEASE]: First climate petition in Estonia: Fridays For Future launched a legal challenge against construction of new shale oil plant

On April 26th, climate activists from Fridays For Future Estonia filed a petition for revocation of the construction permit issued by the Narva-Jõesuu municipality [1] for the ENEFIT282 shale oil plant, and to seek preliminary legal protection.

The petition, first of its kind in Estonia, was motivated by the position that the construction permit issued for the shale oil plant is contrary to international climate and environmental agreements. Further, its full impact has not been properly evaluated. The shale oil plant, intended to be built by the state-owned energy giant Eesti Energia [2] , hinders Estonia's capabilities to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and is in conflict with both the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU's objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 [3].

Estonia is a signatory state of the transnational Paris Climate Agreement, and as such, has pledged to jointly limit global warming to well below 2°C and to make efforts to limit it to 1.5°C compared to the level before the industrial revolution. In addition, Estonia also joined other EU member states in solidarity to commit to strive for a climate-neutral Europe. Despite these agreements, on March 27, the Government of Estonia allocated 125 million euros for the construction of the plant [4].

“Honoring international agreements is necessary to mitigate the adverse consequences of climate change and secure a habitable environment for future generations. The construction of a new shale oil plant will lock Estonia into a fossil fuel-based economy for decades to come while lacking a long-term environmental and economic perspective,” said Estonian climate activist Kertu Birgit Anton.

Young climate activists have previously spoken out against the construction of the plant, but in vain. “Last summer we met with the Prime Minister of Estonia to express our disapproval of the new plant. In March 2020, we submitted a letter to the government of Estonia explicitly asking them to withdraw the investment for the project,” said another Estonian climate activist Kristin Siil. “Sadly, we haven’t been heard. This is our last chance to stop this polluting project from being brought to life.”

According to the applicant, effects of the planned oil plant construction have not been comprehensively evaluated. The strategic environmental impact assessment report has numerous shortcomings, importantly, the evaluation of its impact to human health. In fact, public health indicators in Ida-Viru county, which issued the construction permit, are significantly worse than the Estonian average: average life expectancy in the region is 3.5 years less than the national average and 5.5 years less than the county with the best health indicators. In the assessment, consideration of negative health indicators for the region remained unclear; that shortcoming does not allow for a complete or credible impact assessment.

Notes for editors

[1] On March 27, 2020, the municipality of Narva-Jõesuu in Estonia granted a construction permit to Enefit Energiatootmine AS and Enefit Kaevandused AS (subsidiaries of Eesti Energia) for the construction of ENEFIT282 oil shale plant on a property located in the village of Auvere in Narva-Jõesuu.

[2] Eesti Energia is the largest oil shale producer in Estonia. In 2019, with the rise of CO2 quota price, competitiveness of electricity from burning oil shale has declined along with company’s profits. The company is looking for alternative ways of making use of the resource, building new oil production plants and selling the technology abroad

[3] Estonia is known for its shale oil industry, having used it as a primary energy source for decades, and ranking as one of the world’s top producers. The national energy company Eesti Energia is proposing to build up to four new shale oil plants and one oil pre-refinery. In the end of March 2020, the government green-lit one of the oil plants with an investment of 125m euros. With the added production capacity, the added yearly emissions from this industry (including emissions from burning the fuel after export) would be about 2.6 m tons of CO2. For comparison, the total amount of emissions in Estonia was 18.6 m tons of CO2 equivalent in 2018. More information on shale oil, its usage and climate risks: http://www.kliimamuutused.ee/oil-shale-abc

[4] In addition to the appeal from youth organisations, the construction of the new shale oil plant has been harshly criticised by numerous stakeholders, including Estonian environmental and science associations, Estonian Renewable Energy Association, politicians, entrepreneurs, academics and civic activists both for environmental and economic reasons. Despite immense public interest the cost-benefit analysis for the plant has not been made public. The statement was also supported by the international climate network CAN: Estonia gives 125 million EUR for fossil fuel production.

Photo to use with the press-release: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19Z38xD8C-kjJ47NftRh94RxzAFgkoucF/view?usp=sharing. "Climate strike participant in Tallinn, Estonia on International climate action week on September 23, 2019", author Heiko Kruusi, Õhtuleht Kirjastus Ltd.

For more information, please contact:

Kertu Birgit Anton, Climate activist & co-leader of Fridays For Future Estonia, phone: +372 5900 7020, e-mail: kertu.birgit@fridaysforfuture.ee

Henri Holtsmeier, Climate activist & co-leader of Fridays For Future Estonia, phone: +372 5203 602, e-mail: meedia@fridaysforfuture.ee