Sustainable development

Sustainable development improves people’s quality of life in line with the resilience of the environment


Sustainable development is one of the most important priorities of the policies of the world, the European Union, the Baltic Sea region, and also Estonia. The aim of sustainable development is to achieve a balance between the social, economic, and environmental spheres and to ensure a full societal life for present and future generations. Therefore, sustainable development improves people’s quality of life in line with the resilience of natural resources and the environment [1].


The global Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda were adopted at a UN Summit on 25 September 2015. The action plan contains 17 global sustainable development goals, their sub-goals, and guidelines for achieving the goals. The overarching goal of the global agenda for sustainable development is to eradicate poverty everywhere and to ensure dignity and a good quality of life for all, while respecting the capacity of the natural environment [1].


Sustainable development goals
Global sustainable development goals (SDGs). 


Among the 17 goals, the ones that have most to do with the environment are the following:

  • 6th – water;
  • 7th – energy;
  • 9th – infrastructure and innovation;
  • 12th – sustainable consumption and production;
  • 13th – climate;
  • 14th – oceans and seas;
  • 15th – ecosystems;
  • 17th – means of implementation [2].

The European Union adopted its sustainable development principles in 2001. The strategy was updated in 2006. The renewed strategy defines sustainable development goals in seven areas: climate change and clean energy; sustainable transport; sustainable consumption and production; conservation and management of natural resources; public health; social inclusion; demography and migration; global poverty; and the challenges of sustainable development  [1]. The European Union has, together with its Member States, set itself the goal of being at the forefront of implementing the UN action plan on sustainable development, ensuring that its objectives are integrated into the European policy framework and the European Commission’s priorities [3].


Estonia has plenty of experience in the field of sustainable development. Way back in 1995, the Riigikogu adopted the Sustainable Development Act, which laid the foundation for the strategic planning of sustainable development in the state. Estonia’s national strategy for sustainable development ‘Sustainable Estonia 21’ was completed in 2005 and identified four main goals for sustainable development:

  • vitality of the Estonian cultural space;
  • increase of people’s welfare;
  • a socially cohesive society;
  • ecological balance [4].

The development of the environmental field is guided by the goal of ‘ecological balance’ in the strategy, which is divided into three main components: the use of natural resources in a way and to an extent that ensures ecological balance, reducing pollution, and conserving biodiversity and natural areas [2].


Estonia is committed to implementing the UN 2030 Agenda both domestically and internationally. In addition to the goals of the national strategy ‘Sustainable Estonia 21’, 17 global sustainable development goals are also observed in Estonia, implemented through sectoral development plans and action plans. The sustainable development goals have also been considered in the preparation of the country’s long-term strategy ‘Estonia 2035’ [4].


According to the brief summary of the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 in Estonia prepared by the Government Office in 2020, Estonia’s situation in implementing the sustainable development goals can be generally assessed as good. In 2019, Estonia ranked 10th in the global sustainable development index table. In the field of the environment, Estonia’s strength is the large share of renewable energy in final energy consumption. However, efforts to meet the targets need to be continued in the areas of efficient waste management and recycling, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preserving biodiversity [4].


Estonian sustainable development is coordinated by the Government Office.


See also the definitions of sustainable development by SEI Tallinn.



Last modified: 13.01.2022






[3] Euroopa Komisjon. ELi kestliku arengu põhimõte.

[4] Riigikantselei. 2020. Ülevaade ÜRO tegevuskava 2030 elluviimisest Eestis. Lk 3-4.