The Government of Iceland has approved an investment plan for 2013-15, which includes providing 25 million Euros for implementing the first phase of a fifty point proposal on strengthening the green economy. Recently the Icelandic Parliament voted unanimously for the proposal. The OECD is giving credit to the Icelandic initiative.
- Iceland is going in the right direction. The global challenges are huge, and what are needed are strong policies and more focus on innovation, including new business models. The Nordic countries in general have the right capacity to make some radical changes, says Andrea Beltramello from the Directorate for science, technology and industry at the OECD.
Iceland's objective of investing in green economy is to meet the increasing demand for sustainable solutions on a global level, and at the same time create the economic growth that the country needs.
- Green economy can bridge the divide between a strong demand for growth and the creation of new jobs as well as a sustainable utilization of natural resources, says Skúli Helgason, member of the Icelandic Parliament and chairman of a special parliamentary committee that has developed a plan for the enhancement of a green economy.
Helgason presented the plan at Nordic Innovation Forum, a conference in Reykjavik arranged by Nordic Innovation in cooperation with Innovation Center Iceland.
The Icelandic has traditionally been driven by three key sectors: Fishing, heavy industry and, to a growing extent, tourism. A major political issue is the polarization between nature conservation and heavy industry. Helgason is very much aware of that this is not going to change over a night.
- It is a learning process that you can actually stimulate growth through new ways of thinking. Instead of looking at it as a threat, we must learn to see green economy as an opportunity – a way of moving forward in the right direction.
To stimulate the integration, the committee focused on practical proposals that are designed to be implemented. These are some strategic points for developing a green economy in Iceland:
- The government and its institutions will serve as role models and create conditions for the development of a green economy.
- Economic incentives will be used to promote green economic activities.
- The Polluter-Pays-Principle will form the basis for implementing fees and tariffs.
- The Precautionary Principle will be an integral part of the national fiscal and employment policy.
- Emphasis will be placed on promoting green investments both from local and foreign sources.
- The number of green jobs will be increased as well as the education for sustainable development and environmental issues.
- Environmental management will be implemented in public institutions and the aim is to increase green public procurement with 50% to 2015 and 80% to 2020.
- There will be drastic steps to revolutionize the Icelandic fleet and a comprehensive revision of the legislation on waste to remove barriers for the recycling industry.
- An action plan will be developed to increase organic production to a level of 15% of national agricultural production by 2020.
- Renewable energy for transport will not be taxed before its share has reached 20% of total use.
Also, a Green Venture Capital Fund will be established in a public-private partnership including domestic and foreign investors and a Green Innovation Fund will be established to fund green R&D and innovation projects, environmental management and the shift from fossil to renewable fuels.
- When it comes to green funding we should look at the possibilities for a common Nordic fund, says Helgason and adds that a report on greening the economy published by the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2011 was an important inspiration when developing the proposals above.
The green economy will be coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office, showing that the green economy program aims to integrate the entire society instead of being linked to special sectors or issues. The Prime Minister's Office will designate a task force to finalize an action plan based on the Parliament’s fifty proposals.
Skúli Helgason believes that Iceland can be a role model for green economy – emphasizing a clean natural environment, sustainable use of energy, increased focus on innovation and education on sustainable development.
- Changing Iceland into a green economy will require some changes in mindset and it will take some time, but it is essential for a sustainable growth, he says.
See Skúli Helgasons and the other speakers' presentations at Nordic Innovation Forum below: