In a Nutshell
- The draft updated National Energy and Climate Plan forecasts emissions reductions of up to 95% by 2050, the remaining emissions being compensated.
- The Earth’s Crust Act currently prohibits geological CO2 storage in Estonia. The country also still needs to ratify the amendment to Article 6 of the London Protocol regarding the trans-border transport of CO2 for under-seabed geological storage.
- Estonia has no geological formation suitable for CO2 storage. The country has not yet made plans to develop a national CO2 transport infrastructure.
- A Climate Act is supposed to be finalised by April 2024, with a view to enter into force on 1 January 2025. A decarbonisation roadmap for the industry is also being drafted.
Role for carbon removal in national climate policy
Estonia has a climate neutrality objective by 2050. This objective is embodied in the “Fundamentals of climate policy until 2050” policy document, which was updated in 2023 and sets the overall direction of the path towards climate neutrality. It provides sectoral guidelines for the energy and industry, transportation, agriculture, and land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sectors. Increasing carbon stocks in soils and preserving land areas with significant carbon stocks are key objectives for the agriculture sector. Regarding the LULUCF sector, increasing the carbon sequestration capacities of forests, as well as the long-term carbon stocks in forests are identified as key objectives, as well as the increased use of wood as a building material. Restoring peatlands and wetlands are also mentioned.
Estonia’s draft updated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) projects emissions reductions of up to 95% by 2050. The remaining emissions will be compensated by sequestration, without specifying whether this compensation would be delivered by low or high-durability removals. However, the plan states that the LULUCF sector is forecasted to become a net emitter by 2030 and stay so until 2050 at least. The plan details some measures to increase soil carbon sequestration, such as support for soil protection and neutralisation of acidic soil practices. It states that increasing soil carbon sequestration is one of the four objectives of Estonia’s Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan. Some measures are aimed at increasing support for organic farming, providing incentives for the maintenance of permanent grasslands and setting minimum vegetation covers.
The scaling of CDR methods requiring geological CO2 storage faces a dual physical-legislative problem in Estonia. Almost no geological CO2 storage locations exist in Estonia, and even if they did, geological storage is prohibited by law.
Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is mostly driven by the national shale oil industry. For example, it released a strategy for one county in Estonia, the “Ida-Viru County Development Strategy of CO2 Use 2021-2030+”. One of the main stated focus areas is the long-term preservation of the oil shale industry. The draft updated NECP mentions CCUS as one of several ways to ensure the security of electricity supply in Estonia alongside renewable and nuclear energy. According to current modelling, CCUS is not expected to be economically viable compared to other solutions. The NECP incorrectly states that CCS applied on shale gas plants would make the plants carbon-negative.
Relevant legal frameworks
While Estonia still does not have a climate law, a Climate Act is being drafted, and should enter into force on 1 January 2025. It should contain emissions reduction targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050, and create a legal accountability framework around these goals.
The Forest Act, which includes reforestation measures after harvest and natural disasters, sets the country’s legal framework around forestry.
Estonia’s legal framework around CO2 storage contains contradicting pieces of legislation. On the one hand, the Atmospheric Air Protection Act sets out the rights, duties and responsibilities of either private or legal persons in the exploration, transport and storage of CO2. It also sets requirements for reporting standards, disclosure of information and the assessment of storage locations. On the other hand, another act, the Earth’s Crust Act, prohibits the geological storage of CO2 within Estonia and under its continent shelf. The ban does not apply to research, development or the testing of new products and processes, or if the storage is less than 0.1MtCO2. Internationally, Estonia has ratified the London Protocol. However, it has yet to ratify the Amendment to Article 6 of the protocol, which means it cannot legally export CO2 for sub-seabed geological storage. Additionally, the Water Act prohibits any storage of CO2 in marine areas, including in geological formations under the seabed.
Support for R&D and Innovation
In the draft NECP, CCU is indirectly mentioned several times as one of 30 research priorities, including Power-to-X applications – using CO2 to produce fuels for example – and CO2 utilisation more broadly. CCS and CCUS are labelled as important for Estonia to support innovation. Moreover, Estonia also sees a need for greater clarity on CCS and CCUS accounting methodology, which, according to them, should be supported by the upcoming EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework.
The geological storage potential of CO2 is limited in Estonia, and no such infrastructure is planned. So far, the most concrete option would be to build an 800-kilometre-long pipeline to Latvia, which, due to its high costs, would not be publicly acceptable. Furthermore, no large-scale CO2 storage infrastructure has been planned in Latvia to date. Another option consists of shipping CO2 abroad, which would require the construction of a shipping and liquefaction terminal, as well as domestic CO2 pipelines.
Eesti Energia, a company owned by the Estonian state and one of the world’s biggest shale oil companies, is the main actor interested in developing CCUS nationally. It recently collaborated with Tallinn University of Technology on a project to identify which CO2 capture technology would be most suitable for its operations.
Enefit, the country’s largest emitter, together with Tallinn University of Technology, is conducting a research project on CCS, including identifying transport and storage options in and outside of the country.
On the horizon
The Climate Act is supposed to be finalised by April 2024, with a view to enter into force on 1 January 2025.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is developing a decarbonisation roadmap for energy-intensive industries, including financial instruments for its realisation.
- Net zero target: 2050
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: No
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
- Historical emissions: No
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
- Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Yes (nature-based removals e.g. Forestation, soil carbon enhancement)
- Planning to use external carbon credits: Not Specified
- Conditions on use of carbon credits:
- Ministry of Climate – Responsible for the country’s climate and environmental protection, water, forest, resources, waste and circular economy portfolios. It also heads the following agencies:
- Environmental Agency – Provides national comprehensive environmental, weather and climate data.
- Environmental Board – responsible for the implementation of Estonia’s policy on the environment, the protection of nature and from radiation , and the control and implementation of related laws.
- Geological Survey of Estonia – Responsible for the country’s geological mapping and surveys and advising the government on such matters