Iceland

   

Environmental Policies

#30
Key Findings
With a relatively undeveloped environmental regime, Iceland receives comparatively low rankings (rank 30) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure reflects a decline of 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Environmental policy has not historically been treated as a high priority in Iceland. The Gunnlaugsson government worked to reverse a recent landmark environmental-protection law, leading to a negotiated compromise ratified in 2015.

The country is active in Arctic-region environmental affairs. Whaling and fishing practices are sources of serious contention with the EU and other international bodies. The country participated in the 2015 Paris climate-change conference, and signed the resulting agreement in 2016.

Environment

#24

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
6
Environmental policy has historically not been a high priority on Iceland’s political agenda. The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (Umhverfis- og auðlindaráðuneytið) was established, comparatively late, in 1990. The ministry was a single-issue ministry until 2013 when the ministry was merged with fishery and agricultural affairs. However, a new minister for environment and natural resources was nominated at the end of 2014, separating the two ministerial positions. At the time of writing, this remains the situation.

The country is rich in onshore energy and fresh water resources, and has substantial offshore fisheries. However, apart from the fisheries management system in operation since the mid-1980s, there has been little discussion about how to preserve these resources, reflecting a popular assumption that these resources are, in effect, unlimited.

In early 2013, Iceland’s parliament made two significant steps toward addressing the country’s nature and natural resources. First, parliament passed a new act, Lög um Náttúruvernd No. 60, which strengthened the regulatory framework for protecting the natural environment. Second, the parliament passed a resolution that implemented aspects of the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources 1999–2010 (Rammaáætlun). The plan was based on scientific and impartial advice, rather than special interests, and it was intended to be open to public involvement and scrutiny. The 2013 resolution provided greater substance to the initial plan by stipulating which hydropower and geothermal resources could be used for power generation. However, the Gunnlaugsson cabinet (2013-2016) reversed the previous government’s progressive environmental policy agenda. In November 2013, the minister for the environment and natural resources argued that the act had “met great resistance from different groups in the society” and proposed to repeal it by spring 2013. After bargaining between government and opposition, a final compromise was ratified in late 2015.

Citations:
Althingi. Taken 17. May 2013 from the link http://www.Althing.is/pdf/Althing2011_enska.pdf
Law on nature protection (Lög um náttúruvernd) 2013 nr. 60 10. apríl.
Vernd og orkunýting landsvæða (rammaáætlun) 89. mál þingsályktunartillaga Þál. 13/141 141. löggjafarþingi 2012—2013.

Global Environmental Protection

#33

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
7
The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources is responsible for the country’s involvement in international environmental affairs. Iceland participates in the UNEP, and is active under the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 in areas of sustainable development. Iceland is also one of the eight member states of the Arctic Council, a cooperation forum directed primarily toward environmental affairs and sustainable development, which includes five working groups. Two of these working groups – the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment – are located in Akureyri, in the north of Iceland. In early 2016 it was decided to move the secretariat of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) from Potsdam, Germany to Akureyri. The mission of IASC is to encourage and facilitate cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, among all countries engaged in Arctic research and in all areas of the Arctic region.

Whaling remains a controversial economic activity in Iceland. On 15 September 2014, all 28 EU member states as well as the United States, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, and New Zealand formally protested the continued practice of whaling in Iceland. Still, the government of Iceland has not yet reacted to this protest.

Iceland is still engaged in a dispute with the European Union over quotas for mackerel fishing. In 2014, an agreement was reached between the European Union, Norway, and the Faroe Íslands. However, the agreement did not include Iceland. Mackerel migrate in huge numbers from international to Icelandic waters and Iceland is accused of overfishing the mackerel stocks. At the time of writing, this dispute remains unresolved. Due to reduced quotas and a collapse in markets – following Russia’s economic boycott – Iceland has suffered a reduction in income from mackerel fishing, and at least ten fishing communities were reported to suffer dramatically from this in a September 2015 report by the Institute of Regional Development in (Byggðastofnun 2015). The impact of these problems on national and local markets has not been monitored since 2015, so the situation in 2017 is a bit unclear.

Iceland was fully engaged at the Paris conference on climate change in late 2015 and on 22 April 2016 the minister of environment and natural resources signed the Paris agreement.

Citations:
Byggðastofnun (2015): Byggðaleg áhrif viðskiptabanns Rússa. Skýrsla unnin fyrir Sjávarútvegs- og landsbúnaðarráðherra í september 2015. https://www.byggdastofnun.is/static/files/Skyrslur/byggdaleg-ahrif-innflutningsbanns-russa-endanlegt.pdf
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