Q: What is the progress Estonia will be presenting at the HLPF?
EL: Naturally with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs only in place for half a year now, our review will focus mainly on Estonia’s preparedness for implementation. Estonia already has substantial experience in advancing sustainable development, and several policy instruments and structures that will help in implementing the integrated 2030 Agenda. For example, we have the 1995 Sustainable Development Act, and a national sustainable development strategy, Sustainable Estonia 21, which was adopted in 2005. And we have a set of national sustainable development indicators to monitor progress.
In terms of institutional structures, there’s a coordination mechanism for sustainable development issues which includes both government institutions and non-governmental actors. Besides an inter-ministerial working group on sustainable development, there is also the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission. Formed in 1996, it consists of non-governmental umbrella organizations which cover different fields of sustainable development (for example education, environmental protection, culture, children, health and local government). It meets regularly and holds thematic discussions on different sustainable development topics, discusses drafts of sustainable development-related strategic action plans before they are adopted by the government, and publishes focus reports with policy recommendations. General implementation and monitoring of sustainable development issues is coordinated by the Government Office Strategy Unit.
Overall, our strongest areas are biodiversity protection, a high share of renewables in the heating sector, open and inclusive regulatory process of the government, quick and extensive access to public services through e-services, and good access to high-quality education.
Q: What are the three biggest challenges you see in Estonia for achieving the SDG targets by 2030?
EL: Talking about specific goals or topics, the review suggests that the main challenges lie in achieving productivity growth, developing an energy- and resource-efficient economy, lowering CO2 emissions per capita, and tackling the gender pay gap.
Monitoring progress on the SDGs will also need work. Statistics Estonia conducted an initial overview of 231 global sustainable development indicators and found only around 14% of them are measurable in Estonia right now. So providing data for the global-level indicators will also be a challenge.
Another major challenge for achieving the targets will be raising the general awareness of Agenda 2030 to create ownership of the SDGs at all levels. This means making people understand that everyone can influence the process and that every relevant action counts. This might be the key for change.
It will also be useful to learn about other countries’ experiences and examples at the HLPF. Hopefully this will give us ideas and innovative ways to raise awareness around the SDGs and boost implementation.
Q: What are the next steps in Estonia after the HLPF?
EL: The next task concerning Agenda 2030 and the SDGs will be preparing for a review of the Estonian sustainable development indicators. The aim is to include indicators that help to measure achievements in line with the SDGs topics. This will mean future indicator-based reports on sustainable development in Estonia will provide good information about performance on both Estonian sustainable development goals and the SDGs. The new list of indicators will be defined in cooperation with an inter-ministerial working group, Statistics Estonia and the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission during a process lead by the Government Office.
We are also awaiting the results of an analysis of Sustainable Estonia 21 in the light of the 2030 Agenda and global trends by October, which was launched by the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission. It will give recommendations for renewal of the national sustainable development strategy and its implementation mechanisms.