Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be with you here today.
Together we are facing the greatest environmental threat humanity has ever faced. We all will be affected. We must prepare for what is coming and make sure we are systematically tackling the challenges of climate change.
Recently, the Icelandic government introduced a new climate action plan which is designed to step up our game in fighting against climate change here in Iceland. The strategy consists of 34 actions, ranging from a carbon tax to the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons, from recovering wetlands to building infrastructure for electrical cars, and putting a ban on registering new gasoline or diesel cars in 2030. One of the measures in the plan is also to set up a fund to support climate-friendly technologies and innovation.
With the plan we have set clear priorities. On one hand we aim to speed up the transformation of transport, from using fossil fuels to using electricity and other low- or no-carbon energy. On the other hand, we want to increase carbon sequestration in land use, by restoration of woodlands and wetlands, revegetation and afforestation. Substantial resources are allocated to these measures, much more than any time before. There is also broad political support for the action plan, as was demonstrated by the fact that it was introduced by our Prime Minister plus six other Ministers.
Here in Iceland we want to be among the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to tackling climate change. We want to learn from others, and we want to set an example. With our plan we hope to reach our Paris Agreement goals for 2030, but we also see the action plan as an instrument to help us to reach the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040, which the Government announced when it was formed at the end of last year.
Now, Iceland will almost certainly not be emissions free by 2040. So how can we reach carbon neutrality? We must look at the other side of the coin – on how we can draw carbon out of the atmosphere. This is easily done by so-called photosynthesis. This is what plants do, and for this we have ample room here in Iceland, where we have lost most of our woodland and soils since settlement. We want to reverse that trend. We want to take carbon from the air, where there is too much of it, and put it in the soil, where it is needed.
Despite all good will and all good actions, we must adapt to what is coming. When doing so a wide range of things must be considered. One issue easily forgotten when adapting to climate change is the protection of our cultural heritage. As you know, better than anyone, we must develop procedures for risks and vulnerabilities assessments and sustainable adaptation planning of historic places and cultural remains. This task lies ahead of us and I hope we can co-operate on these issues.
Your work is of great importance. I wish you good luck, both here and with the task ahead of you. I also hope you have a good time here in Iceland and travel back home filled with good memories.