SEI Tallinn Centre Director Tea Nõmmann moderated the event, and Senior Expert Sulev Nõmmann also participated. Helen Saarniit asked for their reflections on the round table.
Q. How did SEI Tallinn come to host the round table?
TN: The impulse came actually from the US embassy in Tallinn. Embassies know that SEI Tallinn is an organization they can always turn to for an impartial view on current environmental issues. They invited us to host and join the event since they were glad about our collaboration and expertise on environmental topics.
Q. What were the most interesting examples of innovation from public-private partnerships that came up?
SN: A good example of innovation was the reusable laundry detergent system from the Estonian start-up ReLaDe, which recently received 3rd prize at the Climate Launchpad competition. The invention allows the same amount of washing powder to be used for months by using magnetic nanoparticles to pull the detergent back from the water into the washing machine. There was also the example of environmental monitoring systems being developed in Estonia that will be much more cost efficient than current monitoring systems that use planes and ships.
TN: It is clear that the Estonian IT sector in general is of great interest to the U.S. With Estonia being such a small country, certain technological approaches and quick developments are possible here, while not yet in the US. Also, many Estonian start-up companies are now looking to the U.S. to grow and expand their business.
Q. What topic did you explore in the discussion, Sulev?
SN: I introduced the Source to Sea platform, which is a project I am currently involved in at SEI. One of the key issues in the project is that freshwater governance is kept completely separate from the governance of oceans, even though the water systems are connected. The U.S. diplomats also talked about the challenges in their water systems, for example the issues caused by foreign fish species, or plastics and micro-plastics, which are becoming an increasing problem.
Q. What was the strongest message you took away from the event?
TN: The recurrent message was that the U.S. is exploring all possibilities to increase collaboration with the EU on environmental and climate-related topics, which is very good news. This was the underlying reason for Ms Garber’s visit, which was organized simultaneously with the meeting in Tallinn of environment and science diplomats from U.S. embassies all over Europe.
Q. What was your impression of Judy Garber?
SN: We were very impressed by how knowledgeable she is about the local environmental issues and how well she knows the Baltic region. Then, of course, she has three years’ experience as the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, a position she held from 2009 to 2012. She is clearly interested in further collaboration, and collaboration could be built around her.