Sustainable forest management, Estonia

Despite relatively progressive laws concerning sustainable use of natural resources, Estonia’s proposed 2030 Forestry Development Plan sets a course for continued forest degradation and liquidation of the forest carbon sink. We are helping NGOs prepare a legal challenge if the Plan is not revised by the government.

Estonian World, Jun. 28, 2022. An NGO takes the Estonian government to court over logging in protected areas

Estonia’s Constitution and Sustainable Development Law includes specific language requiring sustainable use of natural resources. Nonetheless, the latest draft of the country’s 2030 Forestry Development Plan projects continued logging of Estonian forests at a rate that is devastating forest ecosystems and that has already destroyed the forest carbon sink, putting Estonia out of compliance with EU climate and land policies that require increased storage of carbon in forests. Estonia may face significant financial penalties due to loss of the forest carbon sink.

We provided legal and scientific support to a group of Estonian NGOs in drafting objections to the plan, publishing a joint report in 2022 (in Estonian). In a letter to the Estonian Minister of the Environment, the NGOs argued that the draft Plan contravenes Estonia’s Constitution and Sustainable Development Law, which require natural resources to be managed in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all people.

If the government pushes forward and finalises the draft Plan in its current state, we will likely support NGOs in bringing a legal challenge on the basis that a decision to proceed with the Plan would be unconstitutional. The decision-making process is delayed due to a change in Estonia’s government, thus we are waiting to see what the government will do next.