Report: Greenhouse gas emissions in Estonia are on the rise again

  • 2023-01-16

Greenhouse gas emissions in Estonia have dropped 40% over the last ten years, but with the European energy crisis and the renewed competitiveness of oil shale, emissions have been on an upward trend again since 2021. At the same time, we are seeing a strong reduction in emission volumes in Estonia’s processing industry, says the Foresight Centre report “Trends of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Estonia and the European Union”, which was published today.

According to Foresight Centre Expert Magnus Piirits, emissions from energy generation cause nearly one half of total emissions in Estonia today. “2020 was the lowest emission volume year in Estonia’s recent history, but in 2021 the emissions increased 13% in the yearly comparison, and the growth trend continued in 2022. Right now, we cannot see the emission levels dropping significantly this year either because European is still in the grips of an energy crisis and oil shale energy is filling the gap that has opened up,” Piirits said.

After energy generation, the next bigger polluters last year were processing industry, agriculture, and transport and storage. In conjunction with energy generation, these sectors were responsible for 90% of total emissions in Estonia.

The emissions volumes of sectors can also be studied in connection with the added value they create. As a whole, the creation of one million euros worth of added value in Estonia generates 1.6 times the greenhouse gases compared to the EU average. 

A positive role model among the largest sectors is the processing industry whose emissions decreased by 14 % compared to the EU average in 2008–2021 and are now only 10% away from the EU average. Other positive examples are the information and communication sector as well as trade, where the relative emissions have remained below the EU average.

Piirits stressed the need to remember that all economic sectors are closely interlinked, and one provides input for the other. “For example, power generation creates 6,802 tonnes of greenhouse gases per one million euros of added value; however, electricity constitutes an important input for all other sectors. Construction industry has fairly low emissions, and yet these are much higher in the production of building materials which creates input for the sector,” the expert of the Foresight Centre added by way of illustrating his point.

Estonia has decided to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 8 million tonnes a year by 2035. We still have one third to go.

Piirits sees this objective as ambitious but doable. “The rule of thumb is that the wealthier the country, the higher its carbon footprint; an exception here is Sweden which is strong in hydro, nuclear, and bioenergy. Our calculations show that if Estonia’s power generation emissions were on the EU average level, Estonia would already have reached its greenhouse gas objective by now. The drive we have witnessed over the last year in developing the production capacities of renewable energy fills us with cautious optimism,” Piirits said.

The brief report “Trends of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Estonia and the European Union”(in Estonian) is part of the Foresight Centre research “Green Transition Scenarios in Estonia”. This research focuses on Estonia’s key options in taking the green transition forward and analyses the alternative scenarios for implementing the green transition which might emerge in Estonia as a consequence of different further developments or fundamental choices. Research materials are available at: