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A letter of concern has been sent to Estonian company Est-For Invest, signed by the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) in support of a dozen Estonian environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The Est-For pulp mill project in Estonia is a planned biorefinery, projected to launch production in 2022, that will produce energy and pulp. If built, the Est-For biorefinery will produce an annual output of 700,000 tonnes of pulp, and consume 2.5 to 4 million cubic metres of wood per year, for many decades - an enormous amount in the Estonian context.
Mandy Haggith, coordinator of EPN said, “The letter expresses our worries about the planned Est-For biorefinery development, as there appear to be insufficient safeguards in place to prevent negative impacts on the environment. We will be warning against investment in this project until strong safeguards are put in place."
The Environmental Paper Network and the Estonian environmental NGOs are deeply concerned about possible impacts, including the following:
- Risks of pollution impacting the water quality of River Emajõgi and Lake Peipus
- Risks to Estonian forests because of the additional timber demand for the refinery, which is very likely to harm biodiversity and reduce carbon stocks, and lack of any guarantees about certification of wood supplies
- Inadequate criteria for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) given the scale of this project
- Future risks that environmental regulations will be weakened to prop up such a large industrial operation.
Banks and other financiers should ensure the following set of safeguards is in place before considering proceeding with finance for this project:
- The Est-For pulp mill should only source wood with FSC certification
- Water for the mill must be limited to a closed system, and any effluent should be at least as clean as the river’s water itself
- An environmental impact assessment should be conducted according to high standards.
The environmental organisations are also concerned about a boom in wood fibre demand, that could lead to a weakening of conservation measures and forest protection. Before allowing any large investments that will substantially increase the consumption of timber, the Estonian government must make sure that sustainable use of Estonia's forests is assured, including approving appropriate legal measures.
Environmental Paper Network (EPN) is a global coalition of 145 non-governmental organisations working in alignment towards a common vision for pulp and paper production and use that contributes to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for life on earth.