Sustainable development

Sustainable development is harmonious development of social, economic and environmental areas.

In other words, a country can be considered sustainable, if the quality of people's life is improving, there is a safe and clean living environment and natural resources are used reasonably in order to increase economic competitiveness.

Goals for Estonian sustainable development have been agreed until the year 2030 in National Strategy on Sustainable Development "Sustainable Estonia 21”. These goals are: vitality of Estonian cultural space; increase of people’s welfare; socially coherent society; ecological balance.

Long-term development of the field of environment is governed by the goal “ecological balance” consisting of the following parts:

  • use of natural resources in the manner and volume ensuring ecological balance
  • minimising pollution
  • conservation of biodiversity and natural areas.

Activities and timetables for the achievement of environmental goals are set out in the Estonian Environmental Strategy and sectoral (e.g. waste, forest) development plans. 

Through the instruments of environmental management, environmental topics are integrated into other policies on a daily basis and environmental education gives additional knowledge to people, regardless of their age, thus enabling to develop environmentally-friendly behavioural and consumer patterns in the future.   

Estonian Strategy for 2020 brings together the activities from different fields, taking into consideration economic competitiveness. In the nearest future, focus is set on productivity and employment and specific activities shall be determined in the development plans of different ministries. 

Topics related to sustainable development, competitiveness and reporting are coordinated by the Strategy Unit of the Government Office. Advisory functions are performed by the Commission for Sustainable Development and inter-ministerial working group for sustainable development.

Additional information

The Baltic Sea countries have made cooperation on sustainable development since 1992, when the foreign ministers of this region founded the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS).

The Presidency of the Council rotates among the Member States on an annual basis and from 1 July 2014 to the end of 2015 the CBSS Presidency is held by Estonia. Activities are coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In June 2014, the Council of the Baltic Sea States approved its new goals: regional identity, sustainability, successfulness and civil safety:

The Estonian Presidency places a focus on the practical implementation of these goals. For Estonia, the 2014 is a year dedicated to the Baltic Sea, including management of Baltic and Nordic-Baltic cooperation and organisation of several activities related to the Baltic Sea environment in cooperation with Finland and Russia. Estonian 2-year chairmanship of HELCOM started in July 2014.

During the Estonian Presidency, the CBSS Expert Groups are managed by relevant ministries. The Ministry of the Environment manages the work of the CBSS Expert Group on Sustainable Development - Baltic 21 - dealing with launching and implementation of the national joint projects related to sustainable development.

Until the end of 2015, the most important topics are the following: climate change, sustainable consumption and production, innovation and education supporting sustainable development and sustainable development urban and rural areas. During the Estonian Presidency, evaluations are made regarding the work and progress towards achieving the set goals of the Baltic21 Expert Group.

Since 2009, the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region has been implemented in the Baltic Sea region. Sustainable development as an horizontal activity was included recently and is coordinated by the CBSS. Main coordinator in Estonia is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the other ministries participate in the activities according to specific topics.

Clean water, clean air, natural resources and services of ecological systems are the Earth’s limited resources which we are using on a daily basis.

National competitiveness and economic growth, as well as human health and daily welfare depend on the availability of price of resources.

In order to improve resource efficiency, efforts are made to reorganise production and waste management and make people’s consumption habits more environmentally-friendly.

General framework of the activities is developed by the resource efficiency initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy - creating bigger value by using less material.

For more detailed information about the resource efficiency policies, see the European Commission website.

Increasing scarceness of natural resources, aggravating poverty and decrease in national competitiveness are the problems which must be solved by joint efforts made through active cooperation between all the countries in the world.

At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the Heads of State and Governments adopted common policy goals in declaration "The Future We Want”:

There was established the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development for the purpose of giving sustainable development more political visibility, supporting smoother management and evaluating the progress made towards achievement of new goals. 

The UN Environmental Programme was enhanced, in order to connect environmental topics more closely to other areas and develop connections between science and policy.

By the end of 2015, Member States decided to agree on new global Sustainable Development Goals creating interlinkages between sustainable development, activities related to reducing poverty and green economy taking into account the former Millennium Development Goals. To this end, a comprehensive funding strategy shall be prepared. 

The UN Information Platform on Sustainable Development facilitates coordination and information exchange between global activities related to sustainable development and gives up-to-date overview of global developments in this regard.

UN Environmental Programme coordinates the topics of sustainable consumption and production and has a leading role in spreading environmental information. Through the UNEP Live Portal, countries can share and compare important environmental information.

Former global landmarks

At the 2002 UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg (Rio+10), the outcomes of sustainable development were assessed on the basis of national and regional activity reports and the further actions were determined. 

1) The Johannesburg Declaration affirmed countries’ intention to continue sustainable development.  

2) The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation established deadlines for actions, whereof the most important ones are as follows:

by 2005, implementation of national strategies for sustainable development;
by 2010, halting the loss of biodiversity;
by 2015, 50% less households that are not connected to sewer system;
by 2015, safe and balanced use of fish stocks;
by 2020, schemes for safe handling of chemicals;
framework for sustainable consumption and production;
ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
During the period of 1992-2011, global activities related to sustainable development were managed by the United Nations (UN) Commission for Sustainable Development. At the Commission’s annual sessions, political guidelines were established for the activities related to sustainable development at global, regional and national level. 

In Agenda 21 - the action plan of sustainable development for the 21st century that is the product of the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 (the Rio Conference) - were determined global goals for cohesive development of social, economy and environmental fields.

Last updated: 13.07.2021