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Iceland’s Prime Minister Is An Environmentalist

Nature and Environmental Writer: Katie Byng-Hall Takes A Closer Look At Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir

Photo by Martin Jernberg


The people of Iceland have elected Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, as their Prime Minister.


The former education minister is a self-proclaimed environmentalist, who is aiming to turn the country around after a period of scandal in Icelandic politics, as well as tackle the ever-worsening problem of climate change.


Jakobsdottir has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040, and has already taken action to make this a reality. She has appointed Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson - CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland - as the country’s Minister of Environment.


It is very unusual for a non-MP to stand as a cabinet member, but many think that appointing a genuine environmental expert demonstrates Jakobsdottir’s dedication to counteracting climate change.


Iceland’s Climate Policy


In 2015, Iceland joined Norway and the EU in a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. They also pledged to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 as part of Kyoto Protocol. There are multiple ways in which the country plans to achieve these goals.


Firstly, they want to reduce overall emissions. Iceland already doesn’t use fossil fuels to produce electricity, but they have a large carbon footprint from transportation and infrastructure. They are working to move over to green energy for transport, improve infrastructure for electric cars, and make the running of State bodies carbon neutral.


Secondly, they are helping other countries work on becoming more environmentally friendly too. They are doing this by being part of the Green Climate Fund, a scheme run by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2010. The Fund, which has 194 member countries including Iceland, providing financial assistance to help developing countries adapt to reduce their carbon emissions.


The country is also trying to improve their observation of their habitats and climate. They want to make their data and forecasts more detailed, implement a closer monitoring system for their glaciers, and improve the level of awareness on the issue of climate change in the country.


Slovakia Joins the Environmental trend


On 15th June 2019, Zuzana Čaputová was elected Slovakia’s first female president. At 45 years old, she is also the youngest person to become president, and she aptly brings a range of progressive ideas to the role.


Before becoming president, Čaputová was a lawyer and environmental activist. She supports LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive rights, and she focuses on enforcing an anti-corruption ideology. Her role is mainly ceremonial, but she can block motions and appoint top judges as well as being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


With this power, she hopes to eliminate the corruption that has been rife in Slovakia for many years, and implement a fairer justice and environmental policies.


Change in the UK


So, can the UK learn something from Iceland’s approach? Britain is part of the same plan as Iceland to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, but our government doesn’t seem to be paying it as much as attention as Iceland’s is.


In 2008, the UK government released the Climate Change Act which outlined plans to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2050 compared to the 1990 rate. They aimed to do this through boosting renewable transport, implementing carbon budgeting, and a variety of other methods.


However, what with Brexit and various other political disasters in recent years, climate action seems to have been put on the back-burner. Perhaps what our country needs is a Prime Minister like Jakobsdottir who will prioritise the future of our planet.


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