Iceland

   

Environmental Policies

#30
Key Findings
Despite a new focus on the issue of environmental conservation, Iceland receives comparatively low rankings (rank 30) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged in comparison to 2014.

The government passed a new climate strategy containing an ambitious goal of making the country carbon-neutral by 2040. This focuses on phasing out fossil fuels in the transport sector, and increasing carbon sequestration through afforestation, revegetation and wetlands restoration. Significant new funding will be dedicated to climate mitigation measures.

The country is active in Arctic-region environmental affairs. Whaling and fishing practices remain sources of serious contention with the EU and other international bodies.

Environment

#18

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
7
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 appointed 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 freshwater 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.

In September 2018, the Icelandic Government announced a new Climate Strategy, intended to boost efforts to cut net greenhouse gas emissions. The new measures aim to help Iceland meet its Paris Agreement targets for 2030 and reach the government’s ambitious goal to make Iceland carbon neutral before 2040. The main emphasis of the new plan is on two measures: to phase out fossil fuels in transport; and to increase carbon sequestration through afforestation, revegetation and restoration of wetlands. Climate mitigation measures will receive a substantial increase in funding, almost ISK 7 billion, between 2019 and 2023. A general carbon tax, already in place, will be gradually increased.

So, even though environmental policy has historically not been a high priority on Iceland’s political agenda, it seems to be gaining ground.

Citations:
Althingi. Retrieved 17th 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.

Government Offices of Iceland: https://www.government.is/news/article/2018/09/10/Iceland-launches-new-Climate-Strategy-boosting-efforts-to-reach-Paris-goals/. Accessed 22 December 2018.

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. The government of Iceland has not yet reacted to this protest and whaling continues, even though it is increasingly difficult to find markets for whale meat.

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 Islands. However, the agreement did not include Iceland. Mackerel migrates in huge numbers from international to Icelandic waters, and Iceland has been accused of overfishing mackerel. However, in 2018, there seems to be significantly less mackerel in the seas around Iceland, so the importance of this issue may fade.

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. New measures included in a new climate strategy (September 2018) are meant to help Iceland meet its Paris Agreement targets for 2030 and reach the government’s ambitious goal to make Iceland carbon neutral before 2040.
Back to Top