The potential of green economy of Latvia – opportunities and obstacles as learned from Northern European experience

14/09/2012

The reflections were built up on a day of discussions with various experts and politicians who all contributed to building the debate on how positive it would be to strengthen sustainable development in all aspects of our lives and decisions made. Not just with certain policies such as on waste and energy. The aim of this project is to share approaches and ideas.

The prelude to forum was a press conference called on the 13th September where the newly established website www.nacunsac.lv and the launch of “Nāc – sāc zaļot” (Come – start greening) project were presented. One of the interactive features of which is the ‘green clock’ where anybody can tweet about an environmentally friendly deed. There was also an exhibition of electric cars.

The forum discussions took place on the 14th September, where alongside many local initiatives the projects of bio, organic and green products were presented.

The discussion began by establishing what was usually understood by green economy. Alda Ozola, representative of Latvian Green Movement, stated that it’d take all different levels of society to make change happen. Not only do we need more investment in sustainable technologies but we also need to change attitudes. Types of human behaviour were later discussed in more detail by the social anthropologist Klavs Sedlenieks.

It was highlighted that the brand of Latvia as a country needs to be promoted as an international trademark of good quality, a reliable country of sustainable production technologies. Ervins Labanovskis, Vice-chairman of FSF and eco-entrepreneur, illustrated the positive effects this could have on the Latvian economy.

The need for better services in the countryside was addressed, and the importance of involvement of the local people in new initiatives was emphasized, as they know better the priorities of their communities. Whether it’s building or improving community sports center, creating better roads, saving schools from being closed or helping children getting to school in rural areas – all of these should be taken into account according to Aris Adlers of Latvian Rural Forum. He also stressed the problems of bureaucracy that many rural entrepreneurs are facing when trying to diversify their businesses. Less red tape attitude and regulation would provide more employment to areas where it’s hard to find decent job for people. Many of them are leaving Latvia exactly because of these reasons.

On October 14th 2012 there’d be a referendum in Lithuania on the possibility of building the new nuclear plant. This, of course, would have many effects on the neighboring countries and the whole region.Tomas Tomilinas, Member of Lithuanian Demos Institute of Critical Thought, described the political stakes of this referendum and examined alternative energy sources such as wind and biomass which would be much more beneficial for the region and would create more jobs than a nuclear power plant.

Gunnar Boye Olesen, Danish representative of International Network for Sustainable Energy, also underlined the need for “greener” GDP in order to actively promote green policies and to have measures for showign positive examples of sustainable development in such areas as transport and energy. This would help business and governments to adopt them. Governments rely on support from business to succeed in their policies. Therefore the measure of progress should be green. He presented also the Danish energy strategy which was accepted by 95% of the Parliament illustrating the degree of agreement on the topic between all parties elected. Mr Olesen also pointed out that in Denmark politicians had had to make their policies greener in order to be re-elected due to public pressure. That shows the importance of public participation: businesses are not anymore the only stakeholders – changing attitudes of the people makes them even greater amplifier of the debate on the national level. The energy strategy in Denmark foresees phasing out coal use and 50% of energy resources are to be generated by wind power by 2020. More biomass will be used and all this should allow Denmark to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 34% from 1990 to 2020. The strategy was welcomed by industry and in general was seen as positive for the economy as it’d allow creating of more business to establish this change. It seeks to create more jobs in Denmark and to reduce dependency on imported fuel.

The debate was concluded by Jenneth Parker of British Schumacher Institute with a reflection on our current economic system and its impact on green economy discussions. She highlighted that the financial crisis was not predicted by any mainstream economists. The worrying thing still is that the same economists had not changed their financial models since 2008. This should be reassessed and now would be the opportunity to bring forward a new paradigm on sustainable economy.

To broaden the scope of the debate, it was ascertained that the EU has had a leading role in environmental matters globally and it should absolutely continue to do so. As before – mainly through so called “soft power” measures, such as funding of green projects, maintaining discourses to develop various scientific/economic theories, creating and enlarging knowledge base, as well as establishing pilot initiatives. According to Ms Parker one of the most important social aspects of green economy would be linking the right to development (especially for Southern countries) with maintenance of global, regional and local commons.

The forum closed with a discussion panel of politicians from different political parties of Latvia who discussed several important issues. The main conclusion – they all agreed that sustainable development would be a huge asset for Latvia and the rest of Europe as it would create more jobs and encourage a greener lifestyle. All the representatives shared their interest for making this a priority on their political agendas.

The forum concluded with the general agreement that establishment of green economy means fundamental revision of our current economic system and its models, in which the success and sustainability of development should be evaluated by other factors than just GDP – currently the main measure of economic growth.

The forum was organized by FEPS, Nordic Council with the support of FSF. All available visual and written electronic records of the forum are available on-line on the Internet website of FSF at www.bsf-latvija.lv (Latvian version).

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