Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson
Director, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs
I would like to welcome you all to Reykjavík on the occasion of this Iceland - U.S. Hydrogen Workshop.
Some of you may wonder why a Ministry for Foreign Affairs has become a venue for a hydrogen workshop. I want to reassure you that Ministry staff does not engage in hydrogen or fuel cell research. As career diplomats, we normally don´t dabble in that kind of thing. Still, as the arm responsible for foreign policy within our government, we do envisage a role for ourselves in the area of hydrogen. Let me briefly explain why.
Reasearch on the use of hydrogen in Iceland goes back more than thirty years. The early commitment of people in this country to hydrogen development is a reflection of the importance they attach to their environment and the natural resources their country has to offer. It also reflects their determination to apply advanced technologies to the sustainable use of these resources.
When you walk the streets of Reykjavík today, there are few indications that Iceland was one of the poorest countries in the world for the best part of the last millennnium. There were many reasons for this, including, famines and volcanic eruptions. But one important reason was that we were not able to utilize fully our natural resources through the traditional methods we were applying to them.
The advent of modern technology changed all that. It completely transformed the living conditions of Icelanders, who now enjoy living standards that are among the highest in the world.
Even today, our livelihoods in this country depend on natural resources. This applies most obviously to fisheries, but also to energy services. This is why cooperation with other countries in ensuring sustainable use of natural resources is - and will remain - a cornerstone of Iceland´s foreign policies.
It is also why the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has taken up a match-making role between the Icelandic and the US hydrogen worlds. Eventually, we look forward to even acting the part of the midwife for concrete Iceland- US projects that may be born as a result of our meeting today.
Iceland and the U.S. have enjoyed close relations in areas of culture and trade and have been close allies in security and defence for more than fifty years. We work closely together within the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy and the Department of Energy has expressed interest in developing bilateral hydrogen cooperation.
I do not want to prejudge the outcome of our one day workshop. But I feel confident that it will become an important milestone in our bilateral hydrogen cooperation. Therefore, I would like to suggest to you, already at this early stage, that you consider the possibility of following up on today´s proceedings with a small work team or task force.
I wish you every success with the timely and important deliberations on hydrogen cooperation that you will be pursuing in the course of the day.