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Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister's address at the UN Climate Action Summit

Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

“Urgency” is the key theme in this Climate Action Summit and make no mistake about it – we are really facing a planetary emergency.

We need to act now to save the future. If we do not start to decrease global emissions soon, we may reach a point of no return, with ice caps melting, coral reefs becoming extinct, rainforests dying. It is not an exaggeration to say that catastrophic climate change is a threat to civilization and humanity.

This can cause fear. But fear alone does not always inspire good decisions. Most of all, we need hope. The threat is real, but so are the solutions.

Is averting disaster hard work? Yes. Will it cost? Yes. But smart policies can keep the cost of climate action low and bring many benefits to society and economy.

Iceland’s electricity and heating now comes 100% from renewables. Was this hard work? Yes. Did it cost? Of course. But clean energy transformation was perhaps our best investment, in terms of both the economy and quality of life. And I am convinced that the investment we are making now in implementing an energy shift in our transport system is going to be vital to fight the climate crisis but is also going to be a very good investment for our society and our economy.

In Iceland, we have lost 95% of our woodlands since settlement, and half of the fragile volcanic soil. We are now reversing this. Our island is getting greener. This year, the government launched new projects to heal the land and soak up carbon from the atmosphere. At the same time, we are using innovation to pump carbon dioxide underground, transforming it into solid minerals in basaltic rock. The solutions are at hand. To reach carbon neutrality Iceland has declared its goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2040.

Globally, we need to do more to protect carbon sinks, plant trees and reverse desertification. We need a price on carbon. An end to dirty subsidies. Greener lifestyles and clean investment. We need a stronger green climate fund and that is why the Icelandic government has decided to double our contribution to the fund.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last month, I participated in a goodbye ceremony for Ok, a well-known glacier in Iceland that is no more and the first of many to follow.

The message of the vanishing ice is one of urgency, but not despair. We humans can reach the moon, if we want to. We can save the Earth if we want to. We will need hope, cooperation, green technology, and relentless persistence in breaking dirty habits and advancing clean solutions.

We all need to do more. This is what science tells us. And the message of the young generation is very clear. We have no excuses not to act now.

We are here in New York to pledge to do better. Let this summit be a summit of actions, actions that speak louder than words. Let us embrace hope and let us ensure that all our actions against the climate crisis will result in climate justice.


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