Environmentalists’ dreams of a carbon-neutral Reykjavík are one step closer to reality with the introduction of a “green plan” for the city. Sustainability is set to be the guiding concern for the council’s financial and infrastructural decisions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reykjavík City Council voted to approve the majority of the Green Council’s recommendations for a new sustainability plan yesterday. The council hopes that prioritising environmental concerns in its urban planning and economic decisions will help Iceland achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2040.
According to Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson, this is not a short-term project – the plan will guide the city for the next ten years.
“Restoration with vision” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is a key element of the plan, Dagur explains on Facebook. The recession caused by the pandemic “will probably be the greatest in history” he warns, but Icelanders cannot lose sight of environmental issues during this financial crisis. The council wants to take advantage of this moment of financial restructuring to create a ‘green economy’ in which investments and job creation efforts are guided by sustainability concerns.
“Reykjavík intends to emerge stronger from the economic crisis with robust investment in green transport, green neighbourhoods, green innovation and green jobs”, the council’s proposal reads.
The plan puts great focus on developing sustainable transport systems. More cycle routes will be created and notably a new ferry service is set to be trialled. The ferry will connect different harbour-side points, providing an alternative to the Straeto bus service in downtown Reykjavík.
Other projects include connecting green spaces to support the city’s wildlife, promoting sustainable construction projects, evaluating the carbon footprint of investments and developing the eco-tourism sector.
The exact cost of the plan has not been released, but financial decisions will be informed initially by the council’s 2020-21 budget. In the coming weeks Dagur will be consulting the government and holding meetings with cooperative companies.
As reported, the council’s decision comes after Fréttablaðið revealed that 61% of participants in a Landvernd survey believe that the government should take climate change as seriously as COVID-19. It can only be hoped that Reykjavík’s green plan will be the first step in realising Icelanders’ calls for urgent climate action.
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