24 Nov, 2021

Green insights from Yoko Alender, Member of Parliament from Estonia

The Liberal Insider PRO team sat down with Member of Estonian Parliament and Alliance of Her alumna Yoko Alender, on her experience and opinions on attending COP26 in Glasgow. Find out more about her thoughts and ambitions for a greener Europe.

1. You have just attended the UN Climate change conference, COP26 in Glasgow. Firstly tell us a bit more on what it was like to be there!

It is always a huge event, this was my second time there. On the first day many important speeches and leaders were present, this time around I felt that increasingly more people realise that this is a crucial time for action. During COP while governments are still negotiating you can also see many companies, universities and NGOs presenting concrete projects that they believe will make the difference. The most important message came from the financial sector, as they promised 140 billion euros to invest into green technologies, and its very important that this change is being supported by capital.

2. You were there as a national MP, but what do you think we need to do as a European Liberal force?

I think the European level is actually what creates the biggest change, for liberals there is this question of whether we should forbid some kind of action, or if the market will self-regulate itself. Personally, I think its more a matter of pace. I think it’s time to say loud and clear that fossil fuels are going out and that we have to be a little bit quicker in providing renewable sources of energy. If not energy prices will go up and politically this will become very difficult to handle, there could be a counterforce to the green change. We need to have more self esteem, this is a river that is flowing and we cannot stop it, the more we wait the harder it will become both financially and politically.

3. Do you think we have the same challenges at national and local level or are there different things at play there?

In a way it is similar, but of course at local level you are closer to the voters and closer to the people, so it becomes more about concrete and real solutions. Take as an example the local level; at COP when we talk about transport and mobility (one of the biggest polluters and biggest problems for health as well), the most visible options always seems to be electric cars. I don’t believe this should be the number one solution, we should be talking a lot more about public transit and make cars part of public transport. We should be transitioning from "ownership" to "using" when discussing transport. Also we should be talking about pedestrians and the space quality that is dedicated to them along with accessibility to public transit and bicycles. These are so much better options than electric cars in my point of view.

4. Technological advances are also needed and Estonia is a leader in all things digital. What role do digital innovations have to play, and what is the balance needed between companies and politicians to improve digital?

Estonia introduced new initiatives for data to be transparent and available. I think this is a field where worldwide cooperation is needed. Digital plus humans is the solution, we cannot forget about the human scale and qualities because we still operate in a physical world - digital isn’t an end but rather a means.

5. Do you believe this climate agenda has a gender element to it?

Of course it has. It is very well known that women are suffering more and are more vulnerable from climate change. On the other hand I think the gender issue is everywhere. If we look at COP26 and at the people attending, it it is not balanced, we clearly have a male dominance. I think our decisions will become more informed and more balanced if we also work on this gender balanced issue but it’s not only about gender but also about generation gaps. There are different views from young people whom feel the issue acutely. We shouldn’t blame the older generations: they went through various changes in the past as well and for this reason there could be some resistance. At the same time, this change will be happening regardless and we must be very open and inclusive with everyone – we are all in the same big problem.

6. Finally, if you had one message as a politician, to the corporate world on how to improve things, what would it be?

I think definitely be among the leaders, among the first open to change. The resilience and ability to go through change will decide who will be the winners -better to be on the right side!

Interview conducted by Laura Owen-Onsea, Head of Engagement Unit at ALDE Party
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