Environment, Equality, and Reasoned Debate on Prime Minister's Agenda Skip to content
Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir
Photo: Golli.

Environment, Equality, and Reasoned Debate on Prime Minister’s Agenda

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir delivered her policy speech in Parliament on Wednesday, in which she covered topics ranging from the climate crisis and populism to living standards and the promotion of non-discrimination. Discussions on the Prime Minister’s policy then continued late into the evening.

Mankind is responsible for the situation

The Prime Minister said the climate threat was our biggest challenge and that mankind is largely responsible for the current deteriorating environmental situation. The task before us is of reducing the rate of climate change; minimising the damage and securing the future of the entire biota on this planet.

Prime Minister Katrín stated that she would be proud to lead a government that provides the first funded action plan to combat climate change; economic incentives will be used to achieve climate goals. Then the climate goals will be the main goal of a new government food policy that will be presented this winter.

 “I welcome the increased awareness among the public of the importance of combining all our efforts. But we cannot expect the public to take on the formidable challenge without support from the public sector. The government, the state and municipalities, employers and workers’ organisations must combine their energies. A concerted effort is a prerequisite for real success. “

Outrage instead of a matter-of-fact discussion

The Prime Minister mentioned that MPs had been absurdly accused of treason in discussions on the proposed energy deal and some even called murderers for supporting the law to keep abortion legal.

“The rage, unfortunately, gets a lot of attention in the news and sadly sometimes at the expense of reasoned debate. In many parts of Europe popular movements are growing, undermining human rights and unfairly blaming immigrants. Fairness gives way to excitement and extremes. Then the way will become even easier for those inexperienced to come to power and encourage public contempt for politics, parties, democracy and parliament.”

However, the Prime Minister maintained firm faith in the parliamentary debate. She also views democratic political movements as one of the basic principles of a democracy that protects human rights, the rights of those who are otherwise disenfranchised and of democratic institutions as well. She noted that it was a positive sign how much opportunity there was for political participation in Iceland.

“But we need to be vigilant in adapting to the evolving nature of politics and, not least, against attempts to gain power and influence through anonymous misleading propaganda if we are to continue to ensure transparency that is the basis of democracy.”

Need for constitutional change

The recent uproarious debate on energy resource management shows how much the need “is for Parliament to make amendments to the Constitution, not least with provisions on national ownership of resources and environmental considerations for resource utilization,” she said.

“It must be a priority to ensure that all the quality that nature has given us is commonly owned – whether it is the water, geothermal power, the wind, the sea or whatever.”

She said work on such constitutional provisions should be completed later this year. Furthermore, proposals for a clearer legal framework regarding transactions for land utilization and ownership, including the status of national and water rights, would be a priority.

The need to increase social stability

Agreements had successfully been reached on the general labour market this spring. The Prime Minister said the government’s actions in drawing up wage agreements have been aimed at increasing social stability.

The proposed three-level tax system sought to avoid burdening the lowest income groups. Maternity leave and increase child benefit would remain unchanged. Housing policy should also be made to help the neediest. In addition, the government is increasing public investment to meet the slack in the economy. “The government will live up to the expectations of the least endowed,” the Prime Minister said.

Face up to the fourth industrial revolution

Proposals for measures to address the fourth industrial revolution and its impact on the Icelandic labour market will be submitted this winter, she said. New jobs will be created, some will change, others will disappear. Then you need to increase investment in innovation and increase people’s opportunities to apply for new education and move into new jobs.

The challenge is to increase value creation in all sectors while at the same time ensuring that the benefits of technological change are fairly distributed.

Actions on human rights are pending

Prime Minister Katrín said that further measures aimed at improving policy on human rights are now pending. A gender equality action plan will be presented in this parliamentary session. The Judiciary Committee is also working on proposals for comprehensive improvements in cases of survivors of sexual offences. An international conference on the MeToo movement will be held in Iceland next week.

Iceland, the best in the world

“Iceland is the best in the world in a number of issues, but we can get even better, and that we should all agree on. Our 75-year-old Republic continues to develop and grow in every way. That is why I am proud to belong to this vibrant community as we deal with various issues, standing together as one nation. Disagreement is nothing to fear but presents a common challenge to all of us who share the desire to live here in this country. Our fundamental duty is with our community and it is the community that makes us one nation. ”  The Prime Minister concluded.

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