TALLINN - The three presidents of the Baltic states traveled to New York to address the United Nations on the urgent need to combat climate change.
But back home, environmentalists questioned how genuine the Baltic nations were about reducing energy use and pollution within their own borders, let alone abroad.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves enjoyed one of the highest honors of his time in office, speaking to the UN conference of world leaders on behalf of the entire European Union about the need for a new global climate agreement.
He boasted about Estonia's achievements in reducing energy consumption as an example of how growth could be coupled with low greenhouse gas emissions.
"Despite the economic growth of more than 10 percent in a year, the use of energy has decreased by 2.5 percent in a year," Ilves said.
However, Marek Strandberg, a leader of the Estonian Greens party, questioned Ilves' calculations.
"That's not true. During recent years, the amount of fuel we have used has increased each year," Strandberg told The Baltic Times.
Strandberg said he was surprised to hear Ilves praising Estonia's green achievements when the nation still relied on heavily polluting oil shale plants, and showed no sign of weaning off them.
Estonia should also be ashamed of squandering the money it received for its carbon trading quota, which was not spent on lowering gas emissions or building clean power, Strandberg said.
"Perhaps the president was talking about our potential, because we have the potential to change. Unfortunately there is no intention to change this behavior," he said.
Ilves was asked by the current EU presidency chair nation, Portugal, to represent the union at the conference, held in New York on Sept. 24.
He said a post-2012 climate agreement should promote technological innovation, while he said the EU supported a market-based approach to the carbon trading system.
He said it may take the establishment of a UN organization for environmental issues to ensure objectives were carried through 's something re-iterated by other Baltic presidents during their speeches at the UN.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said a more coherent system of international environmental governance through the UN was needed. He said the cost of the consequences of global warming could be twenty times higher than the cost of fighting it today.
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers also said that the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change would amount to 1 percent of today's global gross domestic product.
"Any delays will only increase the costs of climate change manifold," Zatlers said.
The UN meeting has been labeled the largest-ever gathering of world leaders on climate issues, and took place one day before the opening of the UN General Assembly's annual general debate, which this year will focus on the same topic.
During their visit, the presidents also visited the New York Stock Exchange to ring the market's closing bell and extol the Baltics' investment potential.