The goal of the Sustainable Development Forums, which were initiated by SEI Tallinn and are held periodically, is to bring sustainability issues to the forefront of public discourse and to promote sustainable development. This year’s event was financed by the Estonian Environmental Investment Centre and the Government Office, in collaboration with the Estonian Ministry of Environment, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Statistics Estonia.

“The concept of a green economy has increasingly gained importance as the way of the future – an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” says Tea Nõmmann, director of SEI Tallinn.

“Economic development can only take place if natural resources and ecosystem services, which are the basis for well-being of societies, are continuously secured for present as well as for future generations,” she adds.

The conference focused on key opportunities and challenges with the green economy, such as green jobs, policy instruments and education to promote green economy, measuring progress towards a green economy, and how to manage a business sustainably.

To help set the agenda, Nõmmann and SEI Tallinn colleagues Piret Kuldna and Kaja Peterson produced a background paper on the concept of the green economy and how to measure it, including indicators for Estonia. Peterson, who chairs the Sustainable Development Commission at the Government Office, moderated the forum.

Public- and private-sector perspectives
Speakers included Ene Ergma, President of the Estonian Parliament, who gave a welcome address; Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Paul Schreyer, Deputy Director of the OECD Statistics Directorate; Bo Henriksson, Country Manager for ABB Baltic Countries; and Dr. Arjen Wals, Professor and UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development, Education and Competence Studies at Wageningen University.

Nõmmann also gave a presentation on ways to green the Estonian economy, offering examples from EUREAPA scenarios. And for the first time, SEI Tallinn presented awards to companies that are leaders in promoting the green economy in Estonia.

“Businesses have a central role in building a green economy,” says Nõmmann. To foster a dialogue between the public and private sectors, the second half of the forum will be devoted to roundtable discussions, on topics such as: What is the green economy, and how to achieve it in an enterprise, organization and state? Do we share a common goal? Do we have sufficient resources for reaching the goal? What should we do differently than so far?

Discussions like this are important for Estonia, Nõmmann says, because it’s clear that there is potential for a green economy in the country. “The question is, how can it be best and most efficiently implemented, so that the whole economy becomes low-carbon, resource-efficient, and environmentally and socially responsible?”

The forum was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia conference centre. 

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