• Q

    What is your background, and what led you to the path of climate and energy work?

    A

    To tell you the truth, I found the path of climate and energy quite by chance. I had acquired a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics in 2009, and was training myself in business administration in 2010. On the New Year’s Eve (or rather in the wee hours of what was already New Year’s Day), some friends and my family persuaded me to browse master’s degree programmes outside Estonia. The very next day I found a programme at the University of Southern Denmark that combined perfectly my interest in technology, the degree in government and politics, and my belief that sustainable development would be a key topic for the future. After my studies there, I took on the position of Policy Expert in Renewable Energy in the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, where I spent the last five years.

    Turns out I was right: this field of research and work is immense, and immensely important. I was fortunate enough to work with renewable energy policy not only on a national level, but also on the international level. I represented Estonia on the Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT) at the International Energy Agency, and on the European Commission’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan Committee, and in its Horizon 2020 Energy Working Group. The work of over 6,000 experts around the world feed into CERT alone. That part of my work was inspiring.

  • Q

    You have already managed to do quite a bit for the planet. What was your involvement during the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, for example?

    A

    During my days in the ministry, I occasionally wondered whether my renewable energy policy work would ever accomplish enough to offset my travel emissions.  It was not until I undertook work during the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017 that I was able to convince myself that I had surely done my part. I was responsible for leading the energy working group at the EU Council, and my task was to reach an agreement regarding the Renewable Energy Directive text within the Member States. The Estonian Presidency managed to secure that agreement right before the end of its term at Christmas in 2017. A year later, since Christmas 2018, the EU has a  new Renewable Energy Directive to lead it towards more renewable energy development and use through 2030. Plans, however, are worthless without implementation, and this issue is what I hope to address at SEI Tallinn.

  • Q

    What do you think about Estonia’s capacity to influence global processes?

    A

    My time in Brussels reinforced a feeling I have had for a long time: while size does matter on the international stage, you can accomplish a lot by having good ideas and by knowing people  ̶  that is, by having a platform for your good ideas. But when we have great ideas that we can validate in our country, we can scale them up, and have a great impact. Just Google World Cleanup Day! This started in Estonia a decade ago, and has since become a worldwide phenomenon.

  • Q

    What are your plans as the director of SEI Tallinn’s Climate and Energy programme?

    A

    SEI has an outstanding reputation on the global stage as a climate policy think tank that sets the bar quite high. I am looking forward to bringing new momentum to the activities of the Climate and Energy programme at SEI Tallinn, and trying to create a link between the strategic plans of the Estonian government, the EU, and their citizens.

    Nowadays, bridging science and policy is a task of utmost importance. We are on the verge of a new decade of energy and climate policy in the EU, and the implementation of the Paris agreement. The aim of the Climate and Energy team in Tallinn is not only to provide knowledge about where we should be headed, but also to provide very practical assistance to every stakeholder who wants to act now.

    The Climate and Energy programme in Tallinn has already managed to kick off a project aiming to analyse the waste and by-product flows of organic material to see whether we can substantially increase the share that goes into recycling and upcycling, rather than into incineration. Our team is also a lead partner in a project that aims to make use of geodata and digital tools to create a demand-responsive public transport system. As you can see, our work is cut out for us at the moment. Nevertheless, there’s appetite for more. I like to abide by the proverb “The wolf is kept fed by its feet.”