Wetland Reclaimed on Presidential Estate in Iceland

wetlands Iceland

Earlier this week, ditches were filled on the estates of Bessastaðir – the official residence of the President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhanesson – and Bleiksmýri, RÚV reports. The effort forms a part of the Icelandic Wetland Fund’s endeavour to fill ditches on a total of 25 estates before next summer. According to the Fund’s estimates, the restoration of these wetlands will be the equivalent of removing 1,000 vehicles from the road, as far as carbon emissions go.

Labourers employed by the Fund finished filling the ditches in Bessastaðir and Bleiksmýri on Wednesday. Yesterday, the effort was resumed on Krísuvíkurmýri (a total of 60 hectares) in Hafnarfjörður. The reclamation will continue on estates such as Kirkjuból in West Iceland and Hof in East Iceland.

The Icelandic Wetland Fund was established in 2018 by Auðlind (the Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson Memorial Fund), the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (SCSI), and other companies. President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is the project’s guardian.

Read more: Iceland’s Wetland Restoration

According to a public statement made last year by the Icelandic Wetland Fund, filling in ditches is a quick and cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions:

“It has been estimated that the length of the drained [ditches] in Iceland is about 34,000 kilometres. The […] focus is on co-operation with farmers, landowners, municipalities, and the Icelandic state to restore areas not used for cultivation or forestry. The restoration of wetlands is a relatively fast and cheap way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland.”

Government Announces Ambitious Plan for Carbon Offsetting

The Icelandic government has announced a plan to increase carbon gains by 50% by 2030. The plan, which will be carried out in the next four years, will focus on carbon capturing by planting trees along with the reclamation of wetlands. The government will invest 2.1 billion ISK (14.7m €, 16.7m $) in the next four years to improve land use and the extent of soil reclamation and forestation. This was revealed in a press conference held outside in Elliðárdalur valley by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandssson earlier today.

The plan entails projects all around the country which will ensure the protection of the biosphere. It is expected that the climate gain from the carbon offsetting, along with the reclamation of wetlands, will be 50% more by 2030 when compared to the current state. Furthermore, it is planned that the increase will have reached 110% by 2050, or 2.1 million tons of CO2 in total. Along with the carbon capture, measures will be taken to fight land deterioration as well as strengthening local biodiversity by reclaiming ecosystems, such as wetlands, birch forests, willow bushes, and diverse forestation projects.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated: “The Government has placed an emphasis on climate matters, and clearly set the course for Iceland not only fulfilling the goals of the Paris Agreement but that the country will have reached the carbon neutrality goals not later than 2040. The measures we’re introducing today are not least put in place to achieve that important goal. Carbon capturing as well as the reclamation of wetlands are immensely important in the fight against the climate danger.”

It is expected that soil reclamation will double from 2018 to 2022 by operations all around the country, and it is likewise planned to double the yearly extent of forestation in the same four-year period. Operations to reclaim wetlands will be improved significantly, and it is expected that the yearly scope of reclaimed wetlands will go from 45 hectares on average in the years 2016-2018 to about 500 hectares in 2022. To ensure the maximum climate gains, a special emphasis will be placed on operations on land where carbon is being lost from the soil.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources: “With these operations which we have introduced we place the main emphasis on a holistic approach where we look to climate change matters and carbon capturing at the same time as we reclaim parts of the natural environment. This entails projects where we recapture previous land qualities, including wetlands and birch forests. There will also be an emphasis on strengthening agricultural forestry.”

Numerous projects will be put in place all over the country in co-operation with farmers, non-governmental organizations, private companies, and municipalities, as well as strengthening projects already in place. A substantial amount of farmers are currently working on soil reclamation and forestation. There are also plans afoot to ensure that farmers pursue more eco-friendly agricultural methods.

New laws regarding soil reclamation, as well as forests and forestation, were approved in Parliament recently. The laws will play an important role in ensuring that carbon will be captured and to ensure sustainable land use.

For a more detailed report, albeit only in Icelandic at this point in time:
https://www.stjornarradid.is/lisalib/getfile.aspx?itemid=f8c0433d-9cca-11e9-9443-005056bc4d74

Icelandic National Church to Neutralise Carbon Emissions

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

The Church Council of Iceland’s National Church has approved an extensive environmental action plan proposed at a synod (clergy conference) earlier this year, Vísir reports. The plan includes forestry and wetland restoration as well as installation of electric vehicle charging stations on church lands. Clergy also seconded the Icelandic Environmental Association’s call for the government to declare a climate emergency.

The Church Council will now organise an evaluation of which land in its ownership is suitable for large-scale forestry and wetland restoration. These carbon-binding projects are a step toward carbon-neutralising emission from transportation related to church work within the next three years. The Council also agreed to install charging stations for electric vehicles at four locations this year: two in Reykjavík; one in Skálholt, South Iceland; and one in Hólar, North Iceland. Parishes will be encouraged to install charging stations, and others will be installed at vicarages according to demand.

Clergy are also urging airline companies and tour operators that sell flights to and from Iceland to include an option for carbon offsetting trips in the ticket-buying procedure.

Icelandic Clergy Urge Government to Declare Climate Emergency

priest national church of iceland

Clergy of the National Church of Iceland are calling for the government to declare a state of emergency due to climate change, RÚV reports. The church’s environmental project manager says it is urgent to restore wetlands on church property, promote forestry, and use electric vehicles in the National Church’s work.

Some 200 Icelandic pastors and deacons meet yearly at a synod to discuss church affairs. Attendees of the 2019 meeting adopted extensive environmental resolutions, including measures such as restoring drained wetlands on church properties, undertaking large-scale forestry, and carbon-neutralising the church’s transportation within the next three years. Clergy also seconded the Icelandic Environmental Association’s call for the government to declare a climate emergency.

“I think it’s becoming clear to people, and not least of all to most Christians, that we need to take more radical action on climate change issues,” stated Halldór Reynisson, the church’s environmental project manager. “That’s why we want to start by doing what we can.”

The resolutions agreed upon at the synod will now be put before the church’s board. If approved, they must be submitted to the church council this fall before they take effect.

Wetlands Reclaimed Outside Reykjavík to Fight Climate Change

wetland

An area of wetland the size of 100 football fields will be reclaimed in Úlfarsdalur valley in the next few years, RÚV reports. By filling in ditches that were dug to drain the land, the area will be turned into a carbon sink, reducing emissions equivalent to what 150 cars would produce in a year. Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson broke ground on the project himself this Sunday.

The area to be restored lies to the north of Úlfarsá river, near the town of Mosfellsbær in the Capital Area. “We are filling in ditches, removing fences and garbage, shaping the land, and along the way actually creating an outdoor area for residents and other visitors,” Dagur stated. “So we are both achieving climate goals and creating a fun environment.”

The first phase of the project is expected to cost ISK 20 million ($165,000/€157,000), while the total cost of the restoration is projected at ISK 150 million ($1.2m/€1.1m). Restoring wetland in about three quarters of the area, or 65 hectares, is expected to bind around 400 tonnes of carbon per year. The total restored area cover 87 hectares.

Helping the World Breathe

wetlands Iceland

For a long time, wetlands were an underestimated part of the Icelandic ecosystem. But times are changing. People are starting to realise that wetlands are an indispensable water resource and serve a significant ecological purpose. Wetlands are home to a variety of species, ranging from plants to small animals, which depend on the conditions provided by wetlands for survival. Amongst those are birds – over 90% of birds that breed in Iceland rely, to some extent, on wetlands.

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