Editor's note

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Thursday, 21.11.2019, 21:48

SDGs in national economy: Latvian strategy

Eugene Eteris, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 16.10.2019.Print version

The SDGs’ implementation provides Latvian political economy with additional challenges. National science and education communities are stretching a “helping hand” to facilitate the decision-makers’ efforts to formulate an optimal transitional path.

Latvian government needs a solid national program for a perspective growth in view of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which are becoming an integral part of national strategies. Most worrying is that Latvia has a rather unsatisfactory position among the EU member states in implementing SDGs.


Global and European researchers have specified three main trends in a modern society’s development: green growth, preventing negative impact on climate change and sustainability.


The EU leaders’ message for the European 2019-24 strategic development program (adopted in June 2019, which include four main directions) specify two most important in this regard: a) developing stronger economic bases in the member states, and b) building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe. More in: “New Strategic Programme 2019-2024”: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/06/20/a-new-strategic-agenda-2019-2024/

The need for additional science and research

However, in order to combine all the mentioned elements in a national strategy, Latvian government needs a serious scientific analysis towards a practical implementation of these “major elements” into the national developmental plan.

Climate action must be seen by the Latvian decision-makers as an integral part and “instrument” in other important national socio-economic policy objectives, such as promoting sustainable economic development, improving energy security and addressing air pollution impacts on human health.


For example, the new EU energy policy framework called "Clean Energy for All Europeans package" empowers European consumers to become active players in the energy transition. It fixes two new targets for the EU states by 2030: a) binding renewable energy target of at least 32%, b) an energy efficiency target of at least 32.5% - with a revision in 2023. For the electricity market, it confirms the 2030 interconnection target of 15%, an increase from the 10% target for 2020. These ambitious aims will stimulate the states’ industrial competitiveness, boost growth and jobs, reduce energy bills and improve air quality. Implementing these aims would lead to emission reductions in the EU states by some 45% in 2030 relative to 1990 (compared to the existing target of a 40% reduction).


Reference: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-strategy-and-energy-union/clean-energy-all-europeans

 

Latvian “developmental impetus” to green-house-gas emissions and CO2 is quite small presently, compared to other states; but still coordinated efforts and research at the national level are needed to evaluate climate change efforts on Latvian economy sectors. Priorities in climate change efforts shall be strongly reflected in the Latvian central and regional agendas. Particular attention in Latvian economic policy shall be given to transport sector, agriculture, tourism, to name a few, as well as to regional development, manufacturing processes and SMEs activities in their impact on climate change. Effect of these efforts for Latvia is evident: only by adapting now patterns, Latvian enterprises and SMS can be competitive and Latvian society at large be resilient to future chocks.


The cooperative efforts of all partners will provide for a strong foundation on which to build the Latvian “Climate Action Plan” committed to achieving a net zero carbon energy systems objective and creating a resilient, vibrant and sustainable economy. It is first of all the government in general and the economic affairs ministry’s efforts in particular that would take the lead on this agenda in defining a roadmap to the noble goal and initiating a coherent set of national policy actions.


The role of Latvian academic community

As the “voice of Latvian scientific community”, Latvian Academy of Sciences, LZA is willing to assist economic policy’s decision-makers in cross-sectoral approaches to providing most appropriate nation-wide solution to urgent political issues. The common efforts will provide for the optimal Latvian political economy guidelines in regard to global and European climate change challenges. It is already clear that the Nordic states have shown a sub-regional cooperation in sustainability and circular economy as an important impetus to climate change. Latvian efforts can be an integral part in both the Scandinavian-wide approach, as well as in the Baltic Sea region, in resolving modern national and regional issues.


Regardless of the fact that the EU summit in June 2019 could not reach a unanimous decision on CO2-nutral EU by 2050, several EU states have already approved fundamental structural changes leading to national budget’s allocations and public spending towards climate actions.


Latvian national development plan shall reflect the country’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015. The 17 SDGs are addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges that all states need to tackle by 2030 to ensure a sustainable future.


For example, the SDG-13 calls on countries’ governments to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, by improving public awareness of the need for climate action. Crucially, SDG-13 also calls on countries to integrate effective climate action measures into national policies. Numerous European countries (including three Baltic States) have been already drafting their climate action plans cross key economy sectors including, mainly, electricity, transport, construction sector, industry and agriculture and charting national actions towards ambitious decarbonisation targets. 

 

Latvian academic community within the LZA’s framework can suggest some preliminary actions as the expected changes will involve both the general Latvian economy issues and that of some sectoral ministries. For example, most vital and pertinent are the following actions:

- in electricity sector, the changes will involve increasing reliance in electricity production on renewables from about 40% to 70% (Latvia is already among the leaders in renewables in electricity after Sweden and Finland);

- in construction – introduction of stricter requirements for new buildings and in substantial refurbishments, with new district heating systems and measures for higher standards of building fabric and central-local heating systems;    

- in agriculture – supporting diversification in land-use to develop sustainable and circular value chains with the business models for lower carbon intensity farming, including, organic production, protection and enhancement of biodiversity and water quality, as well as production of bio-based products and bioenergy;

- in transport- a significant shift away from internal combustion engine vehicles: e.g. the task of having about one third of all vehicles sold during the coming decade with the Battery Electric Vehicles or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and increase the renewable biofuel content of motor fuels; the increase in the use of biofuels will involve resetting of national economic development priorities;

- in services and SMEs – mobilizing clusters both regionally and sectorally to become centers of excellence for the adoption of low carbon technologies;

- in waste management - developing coherent reduction strategies for plastics, food waste, and resource use.


Latvian political economy has to integrate the mentioned changes into existing budget plans, create the regulatory requirements, market incentives and innovative space to achieve the said objectives. In order to meet climate pledges and overcome political, economic and social barriers to achieve the rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions both the national policy and “social contract” shall be in place. Generally, a “perspective shift” is needed to bring climate change requirements and peoples’ well-being into a synchronized political-economy’s process.

 

Latvian socio-economic development is lagging behind its southern and northern neighbors on almost all positions: on GDP per capita, in competition and in “happiness” rankings, to name a few. But to implement SDGs, the National decision-makers have to concentrate all their efforts to fulfill the global requirements.

Latvia has to be ambitious among both European and global nations in implementing guidelines on green growth, sustainability and preventing negative impact on climate. Of course, it is up to the government (and, specifically, to the Prime Minister’s office) as well as Latvian sectoral ministries to draft most optimal for Latvia plan –both economically and socially – to implement the mentioned SDGs. The Latvian scientific community acquiring all necessary knowledge offers a “helping hand” to make the best for the country.     

 





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