Keynote: Converging crises: Energy Security and Climate Change
Washington DC – 21 September 2022
Excellencies, colleagues, and friends,
It is a pleasure to join you here today as we discuss the converging crises of energy security and climate change. The topic uses the term "energy security" - but of course we would probably not be having this discussion of there indeed was security in the provision of energy around the world. We are living in times where the lack of energy is an immediate threat to large populations, even in very rich and prosperous societies.
Energy - in all its forms is the lifeblood of our societies. It is humankind's ability to harness external energy that is the biggest factor that differentiates us from all other life on this planet. Our mastery of energy has allowed us to build without having to lift every rock, to travel faster than our feet can carry us and to stay cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold.
Therefore energy security remains one of the predominant requirements of modern times. It is simple: without energy, civilization as we know it will not survive.
Meanwhile, with the risks posed by climate change, we also know that unless we fundamentally reform our energy production and consumption, we will not find ourselves on a sustainable path on this planet.
And as has been said so many times: there is no Planet B.
However, while it may appear like a dilemma, I strongly believe that strengthening energy security and addressing climate change do not have to be regarded as mutually exclusive.
On the contrary, with the right policies and investments, a win-win situation can emerge, whereby changing the energy mix, with increased reliance on cleaner sources of energy, enhanced energy efficiency and technologies for carbon capture and storage, can both reduce CO2 emissions and enhance energy security.
Ensuring this is the road pursued is perhaps one of the most challenging, yet urgent, task today´s governments and policy makers are faced with – a task made significantly more difficult with Russia´s ongoing war in Ukraine and the consequent weaponization of energy policies. As a result, all over Europe, businesses and households are experiencing a painful rise in their electricity and heating costs, to a level not witnessed before.
It remains to be seen whether, with the onset of winter, the situation will become serious enough to cause severe economic, social, and political disruptions in some European societies. I fear this may happen, and it will test the resolve of leaders across the world.
What is already apparent though, is that, in the short term at least, our transition to the greener economy will be more complicated, as the need to ensure energy security may seem to triumph over any other objective.
Already, some countries are taking difficult steps back on their clean energy path by reverting to coal for power generation and house heating needs. And we should be concerned that national governments may revert to protectionism to secure energy supplies in the face of uncertainty.
The situation we are faced with has also brought into light the huge risks involved in becoming too dependent on a single external energy supplier, with efforts to diversify energy sources, technologies, and suppliers gaining a new level of importance.
While the current outlook may be bleak, I remain hopeful that the energy adjustments that some countries are now being forced to make in the wake of Russia´s war on Ukraine will not, in the long run at least, compromise our efforts to combat the effects of climate change, and to reduce humanity's contribution to it.
Iceland has set itself a clear vision for a sustainable energy future as outlined in our long-term Energy Policy to the year 2050. Two key pillars of the Policy are energy security and sustainability – reflecting the need to pursue both in harmony.
We have enhanced our ambition when it comes the objectives of the Paris Agreement to achieve at least 55% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 1990, by acting jointly with the European Union and its Member States and Norway. Our goal is also become carbon-neutral and the first fossil fuel free country by 2040.
In Iceland we are fortunate in not being dependent on Russian oil nor gas. We are blessed with abundant renewable energy supply, enabling us, for example, to fuel 100% of our electricity and heating needs from such resources. But we also acknowledge that we need to do more and are committed to do so, including by sharing our experience and green solutions with others.
Iceland also fully acknowledges the need to shoulder our responsibility when it comes to helping to eradicate global energy poverty.
The fact that over 600 million people have no access to electricity and 2,4 billion people still cook using fuels detrimental to their health and the environment is not only unacceptable in and of itself, but also a key impediment to the world´s transition to a greener future.
We have therefore joined the Environment and Energy Partnership Facility for Africa, run by the Nordic Development Fund, which provides support to early-stage projects on clean energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa, and have provided multiyear funding to Sustainable Energy for All - SEforALL. We are also supporting the transition to sustainable energy sources in our partner countries Malawi and Uganda.
We have likewise significantly stepped up our commitments to climate finance with a focus on balanced approach to mitigation and adaptation. This year, for example, we raised our contributions to the Green Climate Fund by 50% and joined the Adaptation Fund with a multi-year pledge.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is inspiring to see that clean energy seems to be front and centre these days here in the US with the US hosting the Global Clean Energy Forum in Pittsburgh this week and with the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act and its substantial climate and clean energy investments.
In Iceland, we have also been experiencing increased US interest in our businesses´ green energy and carbon emission solutions, both from members of Congress as well as from the US administration.
The challenges that humanity now faces remind us of the famous line that "No man is an island". Indeed. And not only is no man an island - no country is an island – not even countries, like Iceland, that actually are islands.
Partnerships, coalitions, and the multilateral system are essential for solving the daunting tasks ahead. In this regard, Iceland is fortunate to have enjoyed over eighty years of close and fruitful relations with the United States. It will become more - not less - important to maintain and strengthen such ties.
The challenges we face were not created by the younger generations, and they were not created by the poor of the world. Nevertheless, all of humanity will have to take part in solving them.
So - whether we like it or not - whether we deserve or not - it falls to the leaders of today and tomorrow to face our common reality. And, whether we like it or not - and whether we deserve it or not - this we must do together.
The job of I hope that we can together build on that interest and increase our cooperation in the area even further – as you will undoubtedly discuss in the course of today´s event.
Ávarpið var flutt á ráðstefnunni Our Climate Future: US-Iceland Clean Energy Summit sem fram fór í Washington DC 21. september 2022.