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“A transition with and for the people”−Maris Pedaja, Advocacy Expert at Friends of the Earth Estonia

Maris Pedaja works on the energy transition and environmental campaigning for Friends of the Earth Estonia and the CEE Bankwatch Network in Estonia. She monitors the use of public finance for the energy transformation and advocates for a democratic shift to achieve a just and sustainable transition.

What does the change you are trying to achieve look like? Why is the EU important?

We want to strengthen Estonia’s energy transformation, which is progressing rapidly thanks to the EU’s Just Transition Mechanism. The aim is to create new jobs in cleaner sectors. We campaign for a better environment and better living conditions for people in the mining regions, through better housing and developing tourism for example. We want to make decision processes more transparent so people support the energy transition. We look at how policies are adopted and implemented, whether the public is consulted.

We want to see a rapid increase in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy savings. At the same time, we pay equal attention to the social dimension: we want a transition with and for the people. We bring knowledge and expertise derived from our work with local authorities to the EU institutions. The EU has a key role to play, giving guidance to Member States to ensure a successful transition.

Which challenges are you facing?

It is difficult for environmental NGOs to be heard, to be seen as relevant and professional. I have seen many environmental actors become allies to the Commission, but it depends on the Commissioner and the services you are working with. I think gaining the trust of authorities is a big challenge. Another major issue is the lack of capacity and resources of NGOs to contribute to policy conversations.

One tip you want to share with other public interest advocates?

Do not lose hope. There are many ways to push for change. It is important to talk and communicate with people. It can be easy not to try to engage with stakeholders that we think are against us, but it is crucial to talk to the other side and push for change. For example, we try to engage on the Just Transition with ministry officials of economy or finance and trade unions. It’s crucial to bring everyone to the table for dialogue and cooperation.


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