The environmental left, led by Prime Minister Katrín Jacobsdóttir, and the traditional conservative right are heading to form a government again in Iceland. The polls did not predict the repetition of this unprecedented coalition that has united in the last legislature the Green Left Party (Vinstri græn), with the Independence Party (Sjálfstæðis), and the Progress Party (Framsókn). But the results of the parliamentary elections on September 25 confirm that the three parties have no choice but to continue to understand each other in the future to form a stable government in the Nordic country.
The debate on the climate crisis and the proposals to reduce CO2 emissions were the central theme in the elections, along with the privatization of the health system, after the pandemic. In recent years, the overproduction of electrical power and the future of heavy industries such as aluminum smelters have been seriously questioned by Prime Minister Jacobsdóttir’s party.RELATED
The Greens denounce that these industries generate 48% of total carbon dioxide emissions, causing Iceland to be placed on the list of countries that emit the most CO2 gases per capita in the world, despite having only a population of 230,000 inhabitants.
Jón Ólafsson, a professor at the University of Iceland, analyzes the electoral setback of the Green Left party despite the popularity of Jacobsdóttir. The prime minister has had government partners who do not prioritize climate policies, but they have seen their position strengthened and have managed to be the first and second political forces in the country.
“In four years, none of the three parties in the Government have really been able to develop their electoral program, and this has caused that, for example, in climate policies, the Greens are embedded in a coalition that does not favor them at all,” he says Ólafsson.
After an exceptionally hot summer – by Icelandic parameters – with a record 59 days with temperatures above 20 degrees, the first sleet showers of September fell last week over Reykjavik. Environmental organizations warn of melting due to the high temperatures of the island’s glaciers, whose area has been reduced by about 800 square kilometers in the last 20 years and is expected to disappear completely in the next 200 years.
“The eight parties with representation in the new parliament recognize the threat of climate change, but each gives it a different degree of importance,” says Eiríkur Bergmann, professor of political science at Bifrost University.
For example, the Pirate Party – sixth force – bet on its program to promote the vegan diet among the population or to change public subsidies to farmers to produce more vegetables and less meat, proposals that have supported other formations of the parliamentary arch both on the left as well as on the right.
At the moment, in the previous legislature, the agreement was started in Parliament to establish the objective of reducing emissions by 40% before 2030 “but without specifying within the Government coalition with what measures they intend to achieve it”, exemplifies Bergmann .
One of the solutions to clean the air in Iceland may be the one provided by the installation – at the end of last summer – of the largest plant in the world, designed to suck up carbon dioxide and turn it into rock. The plant, located in the extreme northeast of the island, can suck 4,000 tons of CO2 per day, but experts warn of the high cost of this solution, which also consumes 27 tons of water for every ton of CO2 it converts.
The national energy company Reykjavik Energy, along with three aluminum smelting plants and two other industries, have set a goal to be neutral emitters of carbon dioxide in the next 20 years. All of these companies emit 1.76 million tons of CO2 per year, despite the fact that the entire industrial sector in the country is powered by renewable energy sources, mainly hydroelectric.
The melting of glaciers is favoring power companies that draw on glacial rivers to generate a disproportionate amount of energy. 80% of this energy is used to supply polluting heavy industry.
While various parties, including the Greens, are betting on making better use of renewable energy sources or encouraging the creation of new hydroelectric plants, other sectors see the country’s great capacity to produce energy as an opportunity to attract more industries and diversify. the economy. During the last electoral campaign, the leader of the populist Center Party, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, went so far as to affirm: “If aluminum leaves Iceland for China, emissions will increase on the planet, on the other hand, more production in Iceland is good for the environment and for our development. ”
Thorgerður Thorbjarnardóttir, spokesperson for the Icelandic Association of Young Ecologists, denounces that in the last 20 years the landscape of the island has changed radically due to the construction of hydroelectric plants “that we do not need and that use large areas of land, completely destroying the plants. ecosystems “.
During the electoral campaign, this association of activists scored the climate policies of each party from 0 to 100, revealing, for example, the two parties that form a coalition with the Greens, which did not reach 20 points in the audit.
“In recent years climate change has gained a lot of force in the political debate, I hope that this will help the parties feel pressured by society and take more concrete measures”, says Thorbjarnardóttir. “We are a developed country with incredible resources. As a rich country, we have a responsibility to be an example in combating climate change.”