The Duchess of Cambridge was interested in what Estonia’s biggest green transition challenge is. Kaja Kallas talked about how Ida-Viru County in the north-eastern part of Estonia has a long tradition of oil shale mining and how this industry is still an important source of income for a large part of the families living in the area. “Ida-Viru County has hard-working people with very specific skills who are afraid of losing their jobs due to the green transition,” Kallas said. The Duchess of Cambridge noted that her father comes from a goal region with similar concerns, so both female leaders are aware of the social complexities of exiting from mining.
“Therefore, it is necessary to attract new investment to these regions, which will create new jobs that require these same dedicated hands. That is what we must do – with the green transition we will protect our country and our planet, but also our people,” Kallas stressed on her Facebook post.
“The UK, one of today’s leading offshore wind countries, stopped fossil fuel mining 30 years ago. This is a step that awaits Estonia, and the UK is a great example from which we want to learn,” noted Ilmar Branno, Invest Estonia’s Director of Regional Business Development in Eastern Estonia. “The UK’s experiences in transmission, new energy production and storage technologies would be very welcome in Estonia,” Branno noted.
Branno explained that in addition to a good economic environment, Ida-Viru County is a traditional industrial area – the locals are used to going to work in the factory and they like to continue their daily routines. The region has a long history in industrial development – the Kreenholm textile factory was opened in 1856 and at one point, the company’s cotton spinning, and manufacturing mills were the largest in the world. Besides, oil shale plays an important role in the region and has been mined for over 100 years, paving way for energy and chemicals industries in the region.
According to Branno, industrial investments and factories are first and foremost expected in Ida-Viru County. Branno sees that the UK’s investments would be beneficial for both the UK and East Estonia, for companies and local people. In order to provide inspiration and help to indicate new cooperation alliances, he points out Silmet plant in the Ida-Viru County – the only plant in Europe specialising in the production of rare earth metals which in turn is extremely important for the green revolution in the electric vehicles, wind turbines, permanent magnets and batteries.
Although mining has not yet reached a green breakthrough in Estonia, the state is determined to follow the green path. Estonia, covered 51% by forest, ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of sustainable development indicators that consider harmonious development of social, economic, and environmental areas.
In her speech at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, Kaja Kallas emphasised that stronger economies must support developing countries that are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Estonia has a lot to offer in terms of the transition to climate neutrality: the experience of the digital revolution, smart solutions from startups, and ways to ensure access to global environmental data for all those in need. Yesterday, Kallas signed a statement in Glasgow emphasising the role of women in the fight against climate change.
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