Iceland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase

Published April 16, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Brilliantwiki/Wikimedia Commons

Greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland rose by 2.2% between 2016 and 2017, and are up by 85% from 1990 levels, a new report from the Environment Agency of Iceland (UST) details.

As RÚV reports, greenhouse gases in Iceland actually began to decrease in 2005, but that trend began to reverse in 2012. UST believes the increase in emissions can be directly linked to the rapid growth of tourism in Iceland, as it relates to a sharp increase in both rented vehicles and flights to and from Iceland.

Tourism, however, is not the sole cause for the rise in emissions.

The report points out that emissions from local transport, fishing vessels, industrial livestock farming and landfills are not only the biggest contributors to air pollution; they also fall directly under the responsibility of the Icelandic government to manage.

In point of fact, emissions from heavy industry have increased by 133% since 1990. It should be noted that most of these heavy industry projects received the full support of the Icelandic government, and the companies behind them were diligent in characterising their business model as “green” due to Iceland’s abundance of geothermal and hydropower.

Emissions from car traffic have increased by 85% since 1990 and by 5.5% between 2016 and 2017. Air pollution has been a pervasive problem in Reykjavík, with multiple warnings issued every year advising residents to stay indoors on these “grey days”, especially children, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions. Health officials have repeatedly pointed out that one of the best ways to reduce these emissions is to get more people to use public transit, culminating in offering free day passes for Reykjavík area buses on grey days.

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