The seminar – 25 Years of SEI Tallinn, In Service of Sustainable Development: Regional and Global Challenges – was attended by the President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, Sweden’s State Secretary for Development and Climate Eva Svedling, and Vice Rector for Research from the University of Tartu Kristjan Vassil.
Johan L. Kuylenstierna, in one of the last events in his role as Executive Director of SEI , opened the seminar and highlighted SEI’s unique story. “Throughout its history SEI has reacted to opportunities presented by social changes, like the one presented by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the regaining of independence by Estonia and other countries, and rising to new challenges in the world,” he said.
Lauri Tammiste, SEI Tallinn’s Centre Director, spoke on the centre’s role in the region and its contribution. “In the last quarter of a century, SEI Tallinn has produced hundreds of publications, carried out 1500 projects, participated in working groups at the national, Baltic Sea and European levels, so contributing to policy engagement and capacity development through science,” he said. “This will serve as a solid basis when we aim to widen our geographical scope and contribute to environmental and sustainability issues more globally,” he added.
Climate change was a key area of discussion. President Kersti Kaljulaid emphasized how it is intertwined into international collaboration. “Everything we do, both in the EU and elsewhere, is at least partially connected to dealing with climate, climate change and climate mitigation”. She added that tackling climate change is a joint task. “Nobody can change the planet on their own, but that doesn’t mean you get to freeload on those who work hard,” she said.
Eva Svedling spoke on Sweden’s desire to “show leadership through concrete measures at home … and in doing so hope to inspire and spur others”. Svedling pointed to recent developments, including “a climate policy framework with new climate goals, a Climate Act and a climate policy council”. She noted that “by 2045, Sweden will have net zero emissions of greenhouse gases and should thereafter achieve negative emissions”. One contribution to this goal is the so-called Bonus/Malus system, under which more environmentally friendly vehicles will be taxed less, while more polluting vehicles will be taxed more.
Another point of discussion was the role of science and scientists in the post-truth era. Kristjan Vassil noted that it is science’s role to adapt to an ever-changing world and reality. Kaljulaid also underlined the role of scientists, in the context of the recently ended Estonian Presidency of the EU, during which scientists and research contributed significantly to a successful presidency, including on environment and climate change.
President Kaljulaid said that “thanks to the close cooperation between policy-makers and researchers, Estonia is in a favourable position, since it is always possible to get advice on decisions”. She added that these good relationships “need to be cherished”.