Icelandic Delegation to Advocate Sticking to 1.5 °C Goal at COP27

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) will be held from November 6 to 18 in Egypt. The leader of Iceland’s delegation has told RÚV that Iceland will advocate sticking to the goal of curbing the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 °C.

Sticking to the Paris Agreement

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is a venue for governments to agree on action to limit global temperature rises associated with climate change. This year’s conference (COP27) will be held from November 6 to 18 in Egypt.

Iceland will send a delegation to the conference as the country’s formal representative. In an interview with RÚV, delegation leader Helga Barðadóttir elucidated some of Iceland’s main points of emphasis:

“Our hope is that countries will keep the goal of curbing the global temperature rise to 1.5°, meaning that Earth’s temperature will not rise above 1.5° from industrial levels, which was enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Despite increasing emphasis being placed on curbing the rise of temperatures to 2°,” Helga stated that Iceland would “emphasise 1.5°.”

Read More: The climate disaster has already begun to materialise

This summer, Halldór Þorgeirsson, Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council, underscored the importance of ensuring greater supervision of governmental action plans. An assessment report recently noted that a gap remained between current emissions and the goals laid out by the government’s action plan.

“Following up on such a big project requires constant work,” Helga remarked. “What marks a big leap forward for us is that work has begun where we’ve pulled different sectors of the economy into a larger conversation, encouraging them to set goals to reduce emissions. The companies working within these sectors are most familiar with their own operations and so are best suited to identify those aspects of their operations where emissions can be curbed. Alongside of that, we’re reviewing our action plan.”

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.

Iceland Could Owe Billions Due to Unfulfilled Commitments to Kyoto Protocol

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson

Iceland faces possible expenditures of billions ISK (1,000,000,00 ISK – 7,190,623$, 6,117,330€) for not having fulfilled its commitments to the Kyoto protocol, RÚV reports. According to Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, a team is working on estimating what Iceland’s exact debt is when the commitment period is up at the end of this year.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty meant to decrease the emission of greenhouse gasses and counteract climate change. Despite getting a special provision which allowed increased emission from large scale industry, Iceland hasn’t fulfilled its commitments. The Kyoto Protocol commitment period is up by the end of the year and it will be time to settle the debt.

“It’s not clear how much it will be. It’s being looked into. There are a few possible ways to respond to this. A team is currently working on it,” Guðmundur said after the Government meeting today. “But I am making it very clear that this is what happens when climate issues aren’t taken seriously. Our current government is taking them seriously and has a credible plan for 2030 to uphold the Paris Agreement. We expect no less than we’ll do our duty there.”

Is not paying an option for Iceland? “We’ll fulfil our commitments, that’s clear. It’s left to see how much it is and in what way this will be done,” replied Guðmundur Ingi.

Guðmundur Ingi is not willing to censure earlier governments but says: “I would have liked to see this differently, that’s for sure. The main thing is that we’re now dealing with climate issues. We have a credible plan to fulfil our commitment for 2030.”

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).

Disappointment and Protest Meet US Secretary of State

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir expressed her disappointment with the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement during her meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, RÚV reports.

Katrín also used the informal, twenty-minute meeting to urge a halt to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to share her concern that the US’s disarmament treaty with Russia was in jeopardy.

During his allotted time to raise issues, Mike also discussed demonstrations outside of Icelandic parliament that were protesting human rights issues in the US, specifically human rights violations against children on the US-Mexico border. RÚV reports that several dozen young people from the youth branches of five different political parties—the Young Left-Greens, Young Social Democrats, Young Pirates, Young Socialists, and Young Reform Party members—gathered to protest during the Prime Minister and Secretary of State’s meeting.

Kristófer Alex Guðmundsson, the president of the Young Reform Party, explained that he was not, in fact, against the Prime Minister meeting with Mike Pompeo. “We want him to come and we should have a conversation and that’s how we can have an influence,” he said. “We won’t have any influence by telling people they can’t come to the country.”

Iceland Must Reduce Greenhouse Emissions by 29%

Iceland needs to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 29% compared to what they were in 2005, RÚV reports. This reduction will be in service of the Paris Agreement, which Iceland and Norway both cosigned with the European Union.

Under the terms of the agreement, as of 2030, European Union nations will reduce their carbon emissions by 40% (based on the levels they were in 1990). Although not part of the European Union, Iceland has ratified the agreement on the understanding that the country will reduce its emissions by a fiscally responsible and manageable percentage. It has now been determined that Iceland only needs to reduce emissions by 29% (based on 2005 levels) by 2030.

Per the announcement on the government website, this percentage would be higher if the target goal were only based on the country’s per capita GDP. However, allowances were made for Iceland, as the country will have to accomplish its carbon emission reduction within sectors that also operate outside of European trade structures. As the announcement explains, “Iceland is thought to have a more restricted position than many other nations in regard to the practical benefits of reducing emissions.”

Despite this, Iceland has approved a climate change strategy that still seeks to reduce emissions by the Paris Agreement levels of 40%. Prime Minister Katrín Jakóbsdóttir has taken this goal even further, setting a goal of making the country entirely carbon neutral by 2040.