Iceland country profile - SDGs and the environment

Briefing Published 02 Dec 2020 Last modified 02 Dec 2020
Iceland`s SDG priorities build on the sustainable management of natural resources (SDG 15) as the key to eradicating poverty and hunger (SDGs 1, 2), ensuring healthy lives (SDG 3) and promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG 12) (Gunnarsdottir, 2017).

The country’s priority targets reflect the government’s emphasis on SDG action. They include: improved resource efficiency in consumption and production and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation (SDG 8); reducing the adverse per-capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management (SDG 11); restructuring taxation and phasing out  fossil fuel subsidies to reflect their environmental impacts (SDG 12); and integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning (SDG 13) (Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).

The Interministerial Working Group mapped Iceland’s position on all 169 targets and specified 65 priority targets which include conservation of the natural environment and combatting climate change. With respect to climate change (SDG 13), the government aims to build partnerships to address the large environmental footprint of modern lifestyles. Iceland is still a net contributor to climate change but is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040 (Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).

The government will also undertake actions to further develop the bioeconomy, green solutions, and methods to reduce the environmental impact of food production by means of incentives and support for carbon offsetting (among others) in the sector (SDG 2). Other actions include strengthening organic farming and highlighting the uniqueness of Icelandic raw materials cultivated under sustainable conditions (Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).

Iceland’s action towards SDGs with an environmental dimension focuses primarily on SDGs 2, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.  

Iceland attaches vital importance to life below water (SDG 14) and prioritises its actions. To protect the marine environment, it has made voluntary commitments to reduce marine litter in its waters. Iceland held the co-chairmanship of the ‘Increasing Scientific Knowledge and Developing Research Capacity and Transfer of Marine Technology’ partnership at the UN Ocean Conference in June 2017. It has also committed to implementing a harvest control rule to manage commercially important fish stocks in Icelandic waters (Gunnarsdottir, 2017).

The government’s fiscal strategy focuses on sustainable productivity, a reduction in GHG emissions, monitoring risk factors, and green solutions for the environment. In recent years, Iceland has paid special attention to integrating gender perspectives into environmental and climate issues and is committed to supporting specific measures to promote the position of women in this field. In particular, the Icelandic government has supported the SEforALL’s People-Centered Accelerator platform which is intended to promote gender equality and emphasises the social participation and promotion of women in the energy sector globally (SDG 7)(Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).

Iceland initiated SDG action in 2016 through a gap analysis on available information on sustainable development. It subsequently issued a status report on the SDGs, including extensive work on the analysis and prioritisation of SDGs, targets and indicators. This report served as the basis for Iceland’s National Action Plan for Sustainable Development (NORDEN, 2017).

In March 2017, the government appointed a working group represented by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, and Statistics Iceland. This Interministerial Working Group manages the analysis, action, and promotion of the SDGs. To ensure the involvement of all ministries, a contact group was also formed, comprising representatives of other ministries and an observer from the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland (Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).

Iceland submitted a VNR to the UN in 2019.  

The Group mapped Iceland’s position on all 169 targets and specified 65 priority targets to guide authorities for SDG action. In 2019, the SDG Working Group launched an information portal, offering citizens, NGOs, companies, institutions, municipalities and others the opportunity to present projects that contribute to the promotion of the SDGs (Prime Minister’s Office, 2019).



Gunnarsdottir, T. K., 2017, Statement by H.E. Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, High-level United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation on Sustainable Development Goal 14, Iceland, accessed 15 November 2017.

NORDEN, 2017, Sustainable Development Action – the Nordic Way, TemaNord 2017:523, Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, Denmark, accessed 20 November 2017. 

Prime Minister’s Office, 2019, Iceland's Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Helsinki, Iceland, accessed 22 July 2019.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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