Arctic Circle Assembly 2023: PM of Iceland: We Have Suffered a Climate Backlash

Katrin Jakobsdottir
Katrin Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland for the Left-Green Movement, at Arctic Circle Assembly 2023. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Reykjavik (High North News): At the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, emphasized that COP 28 in November must succeed in order to slow down rapid climate change.

"The state of the world grows sadder with each passing day," said Iceland's Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Left-Green Movement) as she opened the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik Thursday.

Not only referring to the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel but also the "climate crisis, calling the current state not global warming but "global boiling."

"In the Arctic, the ice caps and glaciers continue to melt, and several glaciers in Iceland have disappeared."

And all of Iceland's glaciers are indeed melting. In August 2019, a funeral was held for the first glacier to disappear, the once enormous Okjökull. Scientists predict that the largest glacier in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull, will completely disappear before the end of this century.

Climate backlash

Jakobsdóttir calls the development in recent years a climate backlash.

It will take 300 years to reach gender equality at this pace
PM Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland

"Even if the Paris Agreement holds, they will decline. And the world is facing a threat that some countries will slow down on climate action. This shows the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels at COP 28," the PM said, adding that the UN climate conference held in the United Arab Emirates in November must successfully solve this problem.

Another severe setback is the fight for gender equality. A problem few imagined, going back ten years in time. Still, here we are, and Jakobsdóttir does not try to hide how she feels about it.

"It will take 300 years to reach gender equality at this rate. Think about what gender equality looked like in the 1720s," said the Prime Minister.

Meaningful climate action

"Ten years ago, we would not have predicted a war in Ukraine, the growth of autocracies, or the backlash for equality in many countries."

Her point is that gender equality is the key to meaningful climate action and must be dealt with alongside forced migration, among other things.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen og Olafur Grimsson.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark being interviewed by Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, chair of the Arctic Circle Assembly. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

But all is not bleak. The good news is that the Arctic region is a model of good cooperation with the Arctic Council at its core.

"Iceland intends to do its part in these matters," concluded Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Keep breaking records

She was followed on stage by Lars Løkke Rasmussen (The Moderates), Minister for Foreign Affairs in Denmark, who also expressed his concern about the climate crisis.

"All the challenges are happening on a global level and we continue to break temperature records".

And it is the Arctic that feels the impact the most. Rasmussen said the world must act now.

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Will pay the price

"Economic and social development go hand in hand, and investments are the key to sustainable development in the Arctic. If we do not act now, the price will be huge," said the Danish minister, naming forest fires and tsunamis as part of it.

"The most important thing now is to work to secure the Arctic Council. If we give that up, we lose. The Arctic faces many challenges with a negative backdrop, but there are also opportunities in the region," says Rasmussen.

"At COP 28, we have the opportunity to phase out fossil fuels."

A positive mindset

Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson (Independence Party), the Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate in Iceland, asks the world to look to his country for inspiration for change.

"We have gone through two energy transitions. Was it easy? No. No other country used geothermal energy, so we had to figure it out ourselves. And look at us now!" Thórdarson proclaimed. She says that the lesson here is to learn from each other and keep moving forward with a positive mind.

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