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news on sustainable development

Iceland to become oil player?
Iceland is to invite tenders from companies wishing to drill for oil in the so-called Dragon Zone, which lies between its northeasten coast and the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen. As the zone lies astride the boundary between the exclusive economic zones of the two countries, Norway will have a 25 % interest in any oil or gas extracted on the Icelandic side, under the terms of a treaty dating from 1981 and more recent negotiations over the specifics. Should any resources be found and exploitation follow, this would be the first oil or gas production in Iceland or its marine economic zone.
Read more [30.12.08]

Icelandic company awarded Nordic environment prize
The Nordic Council has awarded its Nature and Environment Prize for 2008 to Marorka, an Icelandic company that specialises in energy solutions for shipping. At the prize ceremony, Managing Director of Marorka Dr. Jon Agust Thorsteinsson commended his employeees for making "a supreme effort in the development of methods for reducing oil consumption that has now started to offer a return on investment".
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Iceland sees afforestation as important climate measure
Speaking on the occasion of a meeting of Nordic forestry ministers, Ms. Brynhildur Bjarnadóttir of the Icelandic Forestry Service called afforestation in northern regions a powerful weapon against climate change, making Iceland a case in point. In fact, Iceland should have big potential, as most of the country below the mountains and glaciers was forested prior to human settlement in the 9th century, but was almost completely deforested by the 14th. Norway, where forest biomass has long been growing strongly since the timber cut only equals about 1/3 of annual regrowth, has also made a point of this in its climate strategy. in Finland and Sweden, most of the annual growth is extracted, but in all these countries, climate change is itself making forests advance northwards and upwards.
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Free buses for all in Reykjavík?
The Icelandic capital recently made public tranport free for students. Now, Mayor Ólafur F. Magnusson (picture) says he aims to follow the example of Iceland's second largest town, Akureyri, and make bus rides free for everyone before he leaves office. The next step on the way would be to introduce free rides for children and senior citizens.
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Iceland to differentiate fuel taxes?
A commission appointed by the Icelandic Ministry of Finance has proposed that taxes on petrol and diesel fuel should be made strongly progressive, so that owners of cars with high emissions would pay much more than others. At present, Icelanders drive some of the most polluting vehicles in Europe. Denmark and Norway have previously differentiated point taxes on cars as such, so that the heavy polluters cost more to buy.
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Power shortage in Iceland?
The idea of a shortage of power in Iceland, which has some of the world's largest hydro, wind and geothermal resources per capita, may seem odd. Yet that is exactly what Minister of Industry Össur Skarphedinsson recently voiced fears about, following a decision by Reykjavik Energy to abandon plans for a major geothermal development at Bitra. The National Planning Agency had given the project thumbs down on environmental grounds.
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Controversial smelter gets go-ahead in Iceland
An appeal against the permit granted for a new aluminium smelter at Helguvík in south-western Iceland on the grounds that the environmental impact assessment was insufficient has failed. Commenting on the outcome, Minister for the Environment Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir said that though the law had been followed, she was not happy about it. Her Social Democratic party and their coalition partners, the Indepedence party, disagree on the issue of whether to develop more energy-intensive industries. Environmental NGO Landvernd has vowed to go on fighting the smelter.
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Icelandic glaciers retreating at record rates
Icelanders may not be thinking of a new name for the country just yet, but according to the National Energy Authority, its glaciers are now retreating at the fastest rate so far recorded - up to 100 metres per year. Ground is being exposed that has not seen daylight since before the onset of the Little Ice Age in the 16th century. All but one of the country's glaciers retreated last year.
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Icelandic coalition partners disagree on climate policy
The Icelandic Minister for the Environment, Ms. Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir (photo), says that Iceland should not seek exemptions from the rules regarding emissions reductions that will apply to other countries in the post-Kyoto period. The Minister, who represents the Social Democratic Party, is thus publicly at odds with PM Geir Haarde of the Independence Party (story of 10 November). According to Sveinbjarnardóttir, "Iceland has a responsibility as one of the richest countries in the world to be a good role model on environment issues".
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Haarde wants special treatment to continue post Kyoto
The Icelandic Prime Minister, Mr. Geir Haarde of the conservative Independence Party, has told Parliament that Iceland should try to achieve special exemptions from post-Kyoto greenhouse gas limits, as it has under the Kyoto protocol. This would allow Iceland, in recognition of its largely clean energy supplies, to establish more GHG-intensive industries. Mr. Haarde's remarks were welcomed by representatives of the Liberal and Progressive parties and predictably criticised by the Left Greens, while the position of the PM's coalition partner, the Social Democrats, is unclear.
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Fuel prices in Iceland amoung world's highest
Iceland has the world's most expensive diesel fuel and the third most expensive petrol, surpassed only by Turkey and Eritrea, according to a survey of 170 countries. The survey, carried out by the Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit of Germany, reflects prices at the end of 2006. All five Nordic countries were among the 20 with the highest fuel prices. Norway ranked just below Iceland, with Denmark a few places further down, while Sweden had the cheapest petrol and Finland the cheapest diesel of the Nordic countries. Both Finland, Norway and Sweden intend increase fuel taxes further from 1 January.
Iceland Review story - Source document
Icelanders hope for deep-down energy bonanza
The partners in the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, which include three major Icelandic energy companies and Alcoa, have announced that they will drill three wells to a depth of 4-5 km during 2008-2009. The objective is to test the feasibility of exploiting the potentially enormous energy source that is geothermal heat in the shape of water at supercritical temperature - over 400 degrees C or so. This could be utilised to produce electricity far more efficiently than the lower-temperature heat to be found closer to the surface. Recent advances in drilling technology may have put it within reach.
Icelandic Deep Drilling Project

Low-emission vehicles park for free in Reykjavík
The City of Reykjavík - home to 120,000 of Iceland's population of 300,000 - has introduced a new by-law whereby owners of cars that use less than 5 litres of petrol per 100 km can obtain a sticker that exempts them from all parking fees. Within a week, an estimated 25 % of eligible motorists had applied for their sticker.
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Biogas taxis for Reykjavik
The Legubílastödin taxi company of Reykjavík has acquired its first two biogas taxis and plans to get more. The biogas comes from the city's waste disposal facility at Álfsnes. Metan Ltd, a subsidiary of the waste utility SORPA, is currently building a 10-km pipeline from the facility to Reykjavík, which will make biogas more easily available to motorists. Metan claims to have enough gas for 4,000 cars.
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Icelanders to invest in Norwegian hydropower
The State-owned Icelandic energy utility RARIK and the Icelandic bank Landsbanki plan to build 40 small hydropower plants in Western Norway. The plants will be developed in co-operation with Blåfall Energy, a company whose business concept is to sell certified "green" electricity on the European market. Although registered in Norway, Blåfall is owned by a consortium of Finnish, Dutch and Icelandic interests.
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Cheap power for aluminium smelter raises eyebrows in Iceland
Revelations that Nordurál, a subsidiary of Century Aluminium, has been offered electricity at 2 Eurocents per kWh for a proposed new smelter by publicly owned Reykjavik Energy have raised eyebrows among other consumers. Electricity is generally cheap in Iceland, which has abundant hydropower, no grid connections to ther countries and no electricity tax beyond the EEA minimum. Still, other large consumers pay twice the price Nordurál has been offered.
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New Icelandic Government appointed
Following the elections on 12 May, Mr. Geir Haarde (picture) of the Independence Party will remain Prime Minister, but now in a coalition with the Social Democrats. The centrist Progressive Party withdrew from government after major electoral losses. The new Minister for the Environment will be Ms. Thorúnn Sveinbjarnardóttir and the Minister for Industry, with responsibility for energy, will be Mr. Ossur Skarphédinsson. Both are Social Democrats. In its policy declaration, the new Government promises to promote high-tech industry (which the Social Democrats championed) and to combat global warming inter alia through more reafforestation.
Read more
Greens gain, Progessives lose in Icelandic elections
The two governing parties in Iceland, the conservative Independence Party and the centrist Progressive Party, retain the narrowest possible majority in Parliament - 32 of 63 seats - following the elections on 12 May. However, it is uncertain if the Progressives will stay in the Government after they lost five of their twelve seats. The biggest winner at the election was the Left Green Party, which won nine seats, a gain of four. Together with the Social Democrats, who lost two seats, the Greens campaigned against further expansion of energy-intensive industry in Iceland.
Full election results (Icelandic)
Iceland to import 30 hydrogen cars
The Icelandic companies Nyorka and Vistorka, which are promoting tha vision of Iceland as a "hydrogen society", have announced that they will impoet 30 hydrogen vehicles later this year. Some will be fuel cell vehicles from Daimler Chrysler, while the others, from Toyota, will have internal combustion engines. The decision follows the successful trial of three hydrogen buses in Reykjavik.
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Citizens of Hafnarfjördur reject Alcan's expansion plans
In a referendum on 31 March, the citizens of Hafnarfjördur - Rekjavik's neighbour and port town - voted against granting Alcan permission to triple the capacity of its aluminium smelter there. Although the majority was narrow (50.3 %), Mayor Ludvik Geirsson (picture) has promised that the decision will be respected. Whether or not to expand energy-intensive industries further is also a major issue ahead of the Icelandic general elections in May.
Read more
Local Agenda 21 Office to continue in Iceland
While the term "Local Agenda 21" is less often heard in some Nordic countries than a few years ago, it is alive and well in Iceland. On 15 February, the Minster for the Environment and the Chairman of the Icelandic Association of Municipalities signed a new agreement on funding for the national Local Agenda 21 Office until 2009. The office, which provides advice and networking support to municipalities, was founded in 1998.
Read more (Icelandic)
Icelandic opposition wants more technology, not heavy industry
Ahead of the general elections in May, Iceland's main opposition party, the Social Democratic Alliance, has declared that it wants the country's economic future to be based on technological development, rather than more heavy industry. Energy-intensive industries based on the country's abundant hydropower resources have been an important feature of recent economic development in Iceland.

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President of Iceland to join Indian Council for Sustainable Development
The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, has accepted an invitation to serve on the Indian Council for Sustainable Development, reports Morgunbladid. The Council includes leading international as well as Indian figures in the fields of environment and development.
Read more
Growing desert in southern Iceland
Desertification is not a threat limited to sub-tropical regions. The forests around the Hekla volcano were destroyed some two centuries ago, and the resulting desert is likely to spread unless more funds can be found for an ongoing reafforestation project.

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Cabinet changes in Iceland
Following the resignation of Mr. Halldór Ásgrimsson, Mr. Geir Haarde was appointed new Prime Minister of Iceland on June 15. He represents the moderately conservative Independence Party, which continues to govern in a coalition with the Progressive Party. Mr. Haarde also announced some other changes in the Cabinet. The Environment portfolio has been taken over by Ms. Jónína Bjartmarz (Progressive).

New Icelandic Government

Energy - a high priority issue at The Nordic Council Session in Reykjavik
Hans Jørgen Koch, State Secretary from the Danish Energy Authority held a seminar at The Nordic Councils Session (25-27 october) where he discussed
"What is actually sustainable energy, and how do you find the formula for what is profitable in the question of renewable energy?" The demands for energy will increase by 60 %, and Koch presented the new Action Plan for Nordic Energy Cooperation (2006-2009). The action plan tries to find solutions to the increasing demands, and addresses renewable energy, energy efficiency, and challenges associated with the climate. [26.10.05]

The annual session of The Nordic Youth Council
The environment and climate change is the main subject area to be discussed at The Nordic Youth Council (NYC) annual session (21-24 october) in Reykjavik. NYC holds an annual youth Session in conjunction with The Nordic Council's Session in October-November. The delegates represent different party political youth organisations from the Nordic countries, and Nordic political umbrella organisations. [24.10.05]

Nordic conference on parks, outdoor life and health
On 5 -7 May Iceland's Ministry for the Environment and the Nordic Council of Ministers invite participants from the Nordic and Baltic countries to a conferance on parks, outdoor life and health. Questions to be discussed are: What impact can National Parks and Protected Areas have for the economy, outdoor life and health? How can traditional use and nature conservation coexist?

Grimsson held inaugural address at Dehli SD Summit
On the heels of a report citing Iceland as one of the five most likely countries to be entirely self-sufficient, Iceland's president gave the opening speech of the Sustainable Development Summit in India 3-5 February 2005. Citing recent findings by the Artic Council, which Iceland chaired until this November, Grímsson had an aggressive challenge to those who are not paying attention to climate change. [09.02.2005]

4th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council held on Iceland
On 24 November 2004, the ministers of the Arctic Council agreed on the Reykjavik Declaration, which emphasises the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. The meeting was attended by representatives from Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Canada, Greenland, USA and six indigenous organisations. [25.11.2004]