Climate change is key as Iceland heads to elections | WGN 720 radio


Reykjavik (AP), Iceland – Climate change takes center stage as Icelandic voters head to Saturday’s general election following an election campaign defined by a broad debate over very hot summers and global warming. It is a problem.

The North Atlantic Island Parliament, or the nine parties running for Althing’s seat, recognize global warming as a force for changing the subarctic landscape.

But as melting glaciers and a hot climate bring immediate benefits to Iceland’s major industries, politicians should take more urgent action to curb climate change or economic growth. Opinions are divided on whether to take advantage of it as an opportunity.

The current government is a three-party coalition that stretches from left to center-right and is led by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdottir of the Left Green Party. It was formed in 2017 after many years of political turmoil.

Jakobsdottir is still a popular prime minister, but polls suggest his party could face poor results and end the current coalition.

Still, voters say the number of undecided voters is higher than ever as election dates approach. In addition, the number of political parties that could share 63 seats in Althing is higher than ever. All nine political parties can participate.

Opinion polls show strong support for left-wing parties, which mainly campaign for a pledge to cut carbon emissions beyond what Iceland has pledged under the Paris Agreement. According to their pledge, Iceland will achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, ten years earlier than most other European countries.

Environment Minister Gudmundur Gudbrandsson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iceland could pave the way for a “bold and ambitious” climate policy simply because of its size.

“Small is good for change,” he said, noting that Iceland is migrating to electric vehicles faster than any other country except Norway.

Iceland provides an oversized energy supply to a small population of just 360,000 for a large hydropower plant built to power aluminum smelters and other energy-intensive industries.

Of the nine political parties competing, three have decided to suspend the construction of new power plants to develop the energy-intensive industry, including the cryptocurrency “mine” that has been quickly connected to the grid in recent years. I promised.

But others disagree.

Midflokkurinn leader Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, center right, supports Iceland’s energy-intensive industry by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

“If the aluminum plant moves from Iceland to China, its greenhouse gas emissions will almost increase tenfold,” Gunnlaugsson said at the start of the August campaign. “Increasing production in Iceland is good for the planet and at the same time will improve our standard of living. ”

Some plans have never been heard in Icelandic election campaigns. The Emerging Socialist Party will give “people who can and will” the job of planting trees. The Pirate Party wants to support a vegetable diet among its inhabitants. And center-right Vidreisn is set to declare a climate emergency once in power.

Many left and right political parties have also pledged to change government subsidies to farmers to produce more vegetables and less meat. Farmers who wish to reduce their herds can already compensate for their economic losses by planting trees.

Hermann Gunnarsson, a barley farmer in Eyja Fjord, said rising temperatures are an opportunity to expand local production. “Climate coins have two sides,” he said. “But the politicians who talk the most about climate change are afraid to talk about profits too.”

He said this year’s harvest was the highest on record. If the hot summer trend continues, the barley he currently grows to feed his livestock could be sold to brewers and bakeries at a higher price.

Climate change is not just a question of voters’ minds – improving the national health system after the pandemic is ranked high – but it is the most controversial topic.

This is in part because the country continues to experience extreme weather conditions by local standards.

From June to August this summer, Iceland recorded 59 days of temperature above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). In the capital Reykjavik, a forest fire broke out in the surrounding area. In recent years, landslides have increased due to heavy rains.

Iceland reports that rising temperatures have dramatically changed the landscape of Iceland. Over the past two decades, the island’s ice cover has fallen to 300 square miles (800 square kilometers), roughly the size of New York City. I met Office earlier this year.

It was a boon for Icelandic glacier-fed hydroelectric dams. Melting glaciers are expected to over-saturate the basin and increase the capacity of hydroelectric dams over the coming decades. Landsvirkjun, a state-owned public energy company, reports that the increase in melting glaciers has increased capacity by around 8% and is expected to peak around 2050.

Politicians are divided over whether to use the country’s abundant energy for future economic growth or green solutions.

Climate activist Tinna Hallgrimsdottir said the short-term benefits of climate change “make no sense in an unsustainable future”.

She heads the Icelandic Youth Environmental Protection Association, which performs “climate audits” of parties involved in the campaign and ranks them according to their effectiveness.

“A flashy promise is not enough,” she said. “We had to look at the actual plan of action.

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