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Statement by Mr. Siim Kiisler, Minister of Environment of Estonia at the general debate of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, 17 July 2018

17.07.2018

Excellencies, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by stating that Estonia aligns itself with the European Union statement. Today I would like to focus on two greatest assets in overcoming environmental challenges – people and technology.

First, on the one hand, people and their actions cause significant impacts and put pressure on the environment. Larger population means higher consumption. For example, solid waste generation rates are on pace to exceed 11 million tonnes per day by 2100.  
On the other, it is in our power to stop environmental degradation. Responsible consumption and lifestyles choices have a key role to play in this. While consumption patterns and production systems contribute to human well-being, they should not put unsustainable pressures on the environment.

Strong will and initiative can move mountains. In Estonia, 50 000 people united together to clean up the entire country in just five hours in 2008. Since then, the mass movement of the “Let’s Do It!” campaign has spread around the world. This year, World Cleanup Day will be held on September the 15th with people from 150 countries. This is making it the biggest positive civic action the world has seen.  I invite everyone to take part and make their contribution towards cleaner environment.

Second, technological innovation is both positive and negative as a driver of changes in the environment on the global level. Technology is like a double-edged sword – it is both a problem and a solution. For example, motor vehicles and electricity may be two of the most important technological breakthroughs in the 20th century, but created unintended consequences on our planet.

But let’s not focus on the past. Technological innovation is seen as a driver of global sustainability change. Technologies such as renewable energy technologies and ICT are helping to tackle climate change and pollution, increase the productivity and reduce the material consumption. Some new innovative technologies, such as big data, blockchain or artificial intelligence provide the advancement of human well-being and enhanced economic growth, but not at the expense of the environment.

Let me give you an example on blockchain technologies. Estonia has designed a blockchain technology that is used globally to make sure networks, systems and data are free of compromise, all while retaining 100% data privacy. This helps to exchange and store data securely and transparently in supply chain management, recycling and energy supply to name few. Estonia is the 1st country in the world to use blockchain on national level.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

There are many radical ways to reduce our impact on the environment. For example, live car-free or eat a plant-based diet. But are we really willing to change our lives this drastically? If we start with making better behavioural and technology choices, the future looks already brighter. At the end, it should be made easier to behave well than badly.

Thank you

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