Latvia is ready to be part of climate change solution

Juris Pūce,
Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development,

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, posing an urgent and growing threat to our planet.

“Climate change is real, we are experiencing the negative effects of climate change more often. Finding solutions and limiting global temperature rise is the responsibility of our generation. This is the moment when Latvia with other countries has to decide – are we part of the problem of climate change or are we part of the solution. I am prepared to confirm internationally that Latvia is already on track to limit climate change. We are in favour of moving towards climate neutrality, by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transport, industry and agriculture. Yes, it will be challenging, but at the same time, it will create ample new opportunities to develop new “green” industries.”

2015 was a breakthrough year for the global climate policy, when in December 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, which is the first truly global agreement on climate change where all countries have set, in a nationally determined manner, their contributions to limiting climate change. Latvia is committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement and we continue to work on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We are already taking significant steps to meet these goals and aiming towards a climate neutral future which will limit the impacts of climate change.

Climate change is affecting all countries and regions of the world and Latvia is no exception. In Latvia under the impact of recent climate change one may observe a uniform increase of air temperature, expressed in mean, minimum and maximum air temperature values. Most changes has been observed in winter and spring seasons. Under the impact of general air temperature increase the length of growing season and the number of summer days and tropical nights has increased while the number of frost days and ice days has decreased. In the period from 1961 to 2010 one may observe an increase in precipitation, especially in winter and spring seasons. Also precipitation intensity has increased, which in turn has increased both the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation event, which in turn leads to more frequent and severe floods.

Latvia as a country at the Baltic Sea with a coastline of almost 500 km is affected also by coastal erosion. Projections show that by 2060 territory of Latvia could lose up to 10 km2 due to coastal erosion.

2018 was the driest and 3rd warmest year in Latvia since meteorological observations begun. Heat waves and severe drought was observed during the summer of 2018, which led to fires in Latvia’s forests and bogs

Observed impacts of climate change also in Latvia show us that we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Therefore in Latvia we have changed our climate policy course towards more proactive and ambitious climate action.

Latvia has already confirmed that the rest of the international community can count on our support to more ambitious climate policies. In May 2019, Latvia joined what was then a small group of EU Member States at the Sibiu Summit that called for more ambitious climate targets and setting a goal of climate neutrality for 2050 in line with the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1,5oC.

This summer, the Government approved Latvia’s national position on the European Commission Communication “A Clean Planet for all – A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy”. With this position Latvia supports setting an EU level target of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

In July, 2019, Latvia’s government approved Latvia’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan for 2030, setting out concrete actions on adaptation to be implemented in the nearest future. It includes more than 80 adaptation measures to help the population and economy of Latvia to better adapt to impacts of climate change, among others it includes specific measures, for instance to increase readiness in case of forest fires, improve infrastructure to manage increased precipitation.

We are currently in the process of developing  Strategy for Low Carbon Development of Latvia by 2050. Together with the Ministry of Economy we are working on the National Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030, to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of this year.

Transitioning towards climate neutrality cannot take place without a significant shift in investment flows and financing. One of the long term goals of the Paris Agreement is to make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. At the EU level work is well underway with regards to the legislation to be set stemming from the European Commission’s proposal “Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth”.

Addressing climate change cannot be done by governments alone and especially environment ministries alone. It is a complex challenge that needs active engagement from all actors across different sectors of economy. In Latvia we are currently working on the National Development Plan 2021 – 2027 which will look at climate change objectives horizontally across different sectors of economy. Climate change is a complex issue and to truly respond and act, we need everyone on board and working in towards the same vision.

We will be working hard to scale up investments in innovation, research and technologies to truly ensure that Latvia can be one of the frontrunners on climate change, to ensure that we are the ones providing the innovative, low-carbon solutions the world needs. This shift will provide a huge opportunity for businesses and innovators. Transitioning to climate neutrality in 2050 is a long term goal that will not only solve the climate crisis, but also will gradually increase competitiveness and prosperity. Green transition can go hand-in-hand with job creation, food security and public health and offers ample opportunities for sustainable growth. Ambitious, durable and robust climate policy making is foremost about transformative action and designing policies and measures that incentivise and regulate, encourage, and take advantage of the economic opportunities.

“The EU has to send clear signals to other countries, private sector, civil society and entire society that transitioning to climate neutrality is not only necessary, but urgent.”

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