Icelandic Student Takes Second Place in European Statistics Competition

Ólöf María Steinarsdóttir, a student at Reykjavík’s Technical College, won second place in the 16-18 age group of the European Statistics Competition (ESC) for her statistical analysis of why Iceland has such high greenhouse gas emissions per capita. RÚV reports that 17,000 students from 19 countries took part in the competition.

The ESC is a competition organized by Eurostat and participating national statistical institutes, aimed at encouraging secondary students to become literate in statistics and official statistical sources. The competition is divided into two phases, national and European. Participants first participate at the national level and then those winners proceed to the European finals. This is the fifth year the competition has been held, but the first year Iceland has participated.

After winning the national competition in Iceland, Ólöf María and her fellow finalists were asked to produce two-minute videos on the environment. “Contestants had to present their findings on what official statistics tell about the environment in their country/region,” explains the press release on the Eurostat website. “The students produced really powerful videos, some even in the form of a rap song. Their message is clear: we need to build (statistical) knowledge about environmental issues and take action!” A jury of European experts reviewed the 66 submissions and selected the top five videos in the 14 – 16 age group (32 submissions) and the 16 – 18 age group (34 submissions). Ólöf María’s video placed second in the latter group, behind the team from Bulgaria. (A description of, and links to, all the top-placing videos can be found here.)

‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics’

In her video, ‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics,’ Ólöf María examines why Iceland produces 5.24x as much in emissions as its larger European neighbours. This despite the fact that on a household-level, emissions are low in Iceland, and have been consistently so for over 25 years. Industry, and most specifically aluminum production, produces 90% of Iceland’s emissions. See the full, two-minute video, in English, below.

Iceland Revises Its Climate Goals: 55% Emissions Reduction By 2030

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

The Icelandic state will aim for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, not 40% as was decided at the beginning of the current government’s term. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir will present three new climate goals toward this aim at the United Nations summit tomorrow. The revised policy means Iceland’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be 55% lower in 2030 than they were in 1990.

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir has called climate change the biggest challenge facing society today, adding that it’s important to limit its negative impact and ensure the future of humanity and the environment as a whole.

Read More: Iceland’s Plan to Become Carbon Neutral By 2040

Iceland’s emission reduction goals tie into its participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. Countries that are a party to the agreement are expected to revise their goals every five years. It has become clear to officials that the current goals will not be sufficient to keep the climate’s warming within 2°C and climate actions must go further. Other countries that are party to the agreement, such as China, Japan, and the UK, have also revised their climate goals to cut emissions further within a shorter timeframe.

The Climate Ambition Summit will be live-streamed on Saturday afternoon at 2.00pm UTC.

Little Change in GHG Emissions between 2017 and 2018

smog

Almost no change in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was observed in Iceland between 2017 and 2018 (a decrease of 0.1%), according to a new report by the Environment Agency of Iceland. In a brief press release introducing the report’s findings, authors of the report state that GHG emissions in Iceland reached an all-time high in 2007. A considerable decline in emissions followed the 2008 economic crisis, but since 2011, emissions have been relatively fixed.

A negligible decrease in emissions

In a press release on April 15, the Environment Agency of Iceland referenced its National Inventory Report (NIR), which was published on the same day, and submitted per Iceland’s obligations towards the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. These commitments require that parties report annually on their GHG emissions by sources and removals by sinks.

Annual GHG emissions in Iceland, from sectors that the government has committed to reducing (in accordance with the abovementioned obligations), are shown on the below graph (taken from the EAI’s website). Since 2005, which serves as the benchmark year for Iceland’s obligations to the EU, GHG emissions have declined by 6.3%. However, as the graph indicates, emissions have been relatively stable since 2012.

(Blue: Energy, Orange: Industry, Grey: Agriculture, Yellow: Waste)

The primary sources of emissions that fall under the government’s responsibility are road transport (33%), fuel consumption by fishing vessels (18%), agricultural soil (8%), refrigerant emissions or F-gases (6%) and emissions from landfills (7%). The proportion of emissions can be seen on the below picture (sources for emissions that account for less than 4% were omitted from the graph).

The National Inventory Report

Further information about Iceland’s greenhouse gas emissions can be found in the aforementioned National Inventory Report. The report, submitted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, contains information about the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland between 1990 and 2018. The report also describes the methodology used to appraise the emissions; contains data about emissions and removals calculations from the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) sector; and data about emissions from international air and maritime traffic (not a part of the government’s obligations).

Landsvirkjun Announces Plan to Become Carbon Neutral by 2025

Today, Landsvirkjun – the National Power Company of Iceland – will introduce plans to become carbon neutral by 2025, RÚV reports. According to Hörður Árnarson, CEO of Landsvirkjun, the company has monitored greenhouse gas emissions closely over the past ten years. Landsvirkjun’s initiative forms a part of the government’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2040.

Emissions  Halved Since 2005

In an interview on Rás 2 this morning, Hörður Árnason stated that Landsvirkjun’s emissions have halved from 2005 when greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 45 thousand tonnes per year. According to Hörður, today Landsvirkjun emits approximately 22 thousand tonnes annually. Most of the emissions can be traced to geothermal power stations, especially Krafla. Landsvirkjun aims to reduce emissions from these sources, while also cleaning emissions.

“The steam is separated and mixed with fluid whereupon it is injected back into the site of its retrieval … it’s not a simple operation and it involves considerable innovation. We believe that such efforts, however, will lead to an accumulation of knowledge that Icelandic engineering firms and others can use to sell to foreign parties.”

A Comprehensive and Costly Initiative

Hörður stated that the operations will be comprehensive and costly. “It’s a big project that we divide into three parts. Prioritisation is key. First, it is important to prevent emissions, which Landsvirkjun has done by adopting an internal carbon price. We’re probably the first company in Iceland to have done so. For all of our projects, we equate greenhouse gas emissions with cost; for every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions we estimate that it costs us approximately $33,” Hörður stated, admitting that the carbon price was relatively low. The second most important aspect of Landsvirkjun’s project is reducing emissions, Hörður added, with carbon sequestration coming third.

Landsvrkjun aims to update all of its cars, machinery, and engines so that in ten years they will be powered by electricity, methane, or hydrogen.

Iceland’s Largest Producer of Electricity

Landsvirkjun’s presentation will be held at Nauthóll at 2.00pm today. The panel of speakers will include Halldór Þorgeirsson, Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council; Kristín Linda Árnadóttir, Deputy CEO of Landsvirkjun; and Eggert Benedikt Guðmundsson, Director of Grænvangur, among others.

Landsvirkjun is Iceland’s largest electricity generator and one of the ten largest producers of renewable energy in Europe. Landsvirkjun operates 17 power plants in Iceland concentrated on five main areas of operation. It is owned entirely by the Icelandic state.