“The common joke in Iceland is to say that on this cold and windy, rain-swept island, global warming is something we should cheer for - but it’s no longer funny,” Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson said in 2018, speaking at the World Ocean Summit in Mexico, where environmentalists, politicians and business leaders met to discuss how to improve the state of the world’s oceans.

Since then, Iceland has launched several initiatives that have acknowledged that climate change is an issue that goes beyond the handling of the world’s oceans; for instance in September 2018 the Icelandic government announced the launch of a new Climate Strategy that intended to promote efforts to cut net emissions. Such new legislation is also meant to help the country to meet its Paris Agreement targets set for 2030, and reach the ambitious aim to make Iceland completely carbon neutral before 2040, for instance by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon uptake by soil and vegetation by actions in land use. Another intended method is to increase the supply of geothermal energy, which already produces around 30% of the country’s electricity and meets 87% of the nation’s heating and hot water requirements within housing. This is possible as Iceland’s geological position, namely the high degree of volcanism, enables the country to be the world leader in the production of this sustainable and renewable energy source. It is also relatively cheap, and therefore in the wintertime some pavements in Reykjavík and Akureyri are heated, and on the 40 km long road between Reykjavik and the International Airport at Keflavík, the lights on the lamp posts are on the whole night.

In essence, Iceland’s intended actions aimed at mitigating climate change include:

- Carbon tax (was increased by 50% in beginning of 2018).
- Participation in EU Emissions Trading Scheme; currently 11 Icelandic companies, mostly in heavy industry and aviation participate.
- Support for clean transport: Electric cars and other clean-technology vehicles get lower or zero fees and taxes, and a government fund supports charging stations for electric cars.
- Afforestation and revegetation: The government supports actions in these fields, which soak up CO2 from the atmosphere; the Icelandic Forest Service and the Soil Conservation Service work on programmes in these fields, and the government also supports initiatives by local and regional forestry associations.
- Reclamations of wetlands: A programme has been launched under the auspices of the Soil Conservation Service.

However there have been calls since the scheme was announced in September 2018 that more is needed to do to combat climate change, as it is an issue that is taken particularly seriously in Iceland, as it is and will continue to have a big impact on Iceland and Icelandic waters. For instance, approximately 11% of Iceland’s surface is covered by glacial ice, and it is estimated that most of these glaciers are receding. Glaciers such as Sólheimajökull in southern Iceland has developed a lagoon that increases by the size of an Olympic swimming pool every year. Scientists predict that the glacier and several others will largely vanish in the next 100-200 years.

Another source of pressure to take even more decisive action against climate change comes as today many school children in Iceland, along with young people all over the world, have taken to the streets to demand that governments do more to combat the issue. Climate activists marched from Hallgrímkirkja church to Austurvöllur square, inspired by Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg to strike weekly since the 22nd of February to demand immediate action on the part of the government to fight climate change. The ongoing protests are youth led, organised by the National Union for Icelandic Students (LÍS) and the Icelandic Upper Secondary Student Union (SÍF), among others.

“The government published an environmental plan for 2030 with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2040. While we support this plan, further action is needed,” stated the event description, “We demand drastic action. Now. For coming generations. For safeguarding our climate.”

As of yet, the success of protests are unknown because the Icelandic government have yet to respond to the marches; however what is known is that climate change is and will continue to have crippling effects on both the Icelandic landscape, biodiversity among other issues and therefore decisive action is required. Future youth protests are also expected, not just in Iceland but across Germany, Britain and other countries across the world; if their voice is not listened to by their governments, it is difficult to say the extent of the damage that climate change will have on Iceland, and indeed globally.