Estonia to punish companies that chop down forests to make way for construction

Estonia to punish companies that chop down forests to make way for construction
/ Alexandr via Pixabay
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius August 1, 2023

After the Estonian government promised in its coalition agreement to tax deforestation, the Ministry of Climate is considering requiring deforesters to plant equal volumes of new forest to replace cleared trees as well, BNS, a Baltic newswire, and the website of Estonian national broadcaster ERR, reported on August 1.

Deforestation is the complete removal of a forest in order to convert it to some other, non-forest use, such as the construction of buildings, railways or roads.

Ministry of Climate Undersecretary Marku Lamp said that clearing forests for the construction of settlements or roads directly impedes the achievement of nature conservation and climate targets, as it reduces the area of forested land, thus reducing the amount of carbon it sequesters.

Lamp added that it's also necessary to compensate for deforestation because cutting down forests reduces suitable habitats available for forest biota as well as business income and tax revenues from forestry.

Ants Erik, board chair at the Estonian Private Forest Union (Eesti Erametsaliit, EEML) is in favour of the government's tax plan. He added, however, that tax revenue generated by deforestation should go to surrounding land and forest owners, as deforestation could drive wildlife to relocate to adjacent forests, due to which the state may impose additional restrictions on the property owners.

While the initial government action plan called for the climate ministry to have come up with deforestation specifications and proposals by the middle of summer, according to Lamp, all of the details regarding the tax, such as the size thereof, nonetheless won't be clear until autumn.

According to the Ministry of Climate's data, over the last decade, an average of 1,500 hectares of land in Estonia has been deforested each year, most of the time necessitated by the expansion of built-up areas. This was followed by deforestation for road construction purposes, BNS reported.