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Kaja Kallas poses for a photo in Tallinn, Estonia in February 2019.
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NewsGirls & Women

Estonia's First Woman Prime Minister Is Already Fighting Climate Change in Her First Week


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Women leaders and decision-makers are more likely to advocate for the planet. The United Nations’ Global Goal 13 calls for urgent action to stop climate change and its impacts. You can join us and take action on this issue here

Kaja Kallas became Estonia’s first woman prime minister on Jan. 26, and prioritizing climate change is one of the first issues on her agenda, according to the Guardian. 

Kallas, a 43-year old lawyer and leader of Estonia’s Reform party, took office after a far-right EKRE party coalition ruled for two years. The prime minister’s win now makes Estonia one of the few countries where women hold the positions of both prime minister and head of state (President Kersti Kaljulaid took office in 2016). Kallas also appointed women as finance and foreign ministers, which she said they earned because of their competence, not their gender.

The prime minister plans to govern in a “pro-European” way that supports European values, she said in an interview. 

“We will also have a very clear change in policies when it comes to issues like climate policy,” she added. 

Under Kallas’ leadership, the new coalition government has pledged to create strategies to stop producing shale oil in Estonia by 2035 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Shale oil is made by heating oil shale rock fragments and is one of the dirtiest oils, leading to more greenhouse gas emissions, and it generates more waste, both of which contribute to climate change. Estonia had the second-highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the EU in 2017.

"We need to take care that the timeline for the transition would be realistic and affordable for all, and also ensure equal opportunities for our businesses trading on the global market,” Kallas said of her new climate plan, according to the broadcast network Eesti Rahvusringhääling.

Emissions must halve by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050 to reach the United Nations’ target to stop climate change, and will take collaboration between countries around the world.

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In addition to advocating for the environment, Kallas has vowed to make progress to allow civil partnerships for same-sex couples. While Estonia approved same-sex civil partnerships in 2014, the law has not been enforced.

Ensuring that Estonia receives COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as larger countries in the European Union is also top of mind for the prime minister.