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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Iceland

Environmental protection is embedded into Iceland’s Constitutional Bill, which is an amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Iceland No. 33/1933. Article 1 reads:

“Iceland’s nature is the foundation of all life in the country. Responsibility for protecting nature and the environment is shared collectively by all and that protection shall be based on precaution and long-term vision guided by sustainable development. The maintenance of natural diversity shall be promoted and the growth and development of the biota ensured. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment. The public may roam freely and stay on the land for legitimate purposes. Nature shall be well treated and the interests of landowners and other right holders respected. More detailed provisions on the content and extent of the right to roam shall be provided for by law. The right of the public to access information on the environment and the effects of any developments thereon, and to participate in the preparation of decisions affecting the environment, shall be provided for by law.”

Featured Legislation

1971: The Nature Conservation Act was enacted. The legislation aims to ''encourage the intercourse of Man and Nature in such a way that life or land be not needlessly wasted, nor sea, fresh water or air polluted. The Act shall ensure as far as possible the course of natural processes according to their own laws, and the protection of exceptional and historical aspects of Icelandic nature. The Act shall enhance the nation's access to and familiarity with Nature.''

1989: The Regulation on Environmental Pollution Control was signed into force, making provisions to reduce and prevent pollution of the outer environment, which is defined as being all land, water, and air, outdoors, and outside workplaces.

1990: The Ministry for the Environment was established, centralising the major environmental protection responsibilities of the state.

1991: The Government’s White Paper was drafted, identifying a broad range of environmental initiatives relating to preservation and utilisation of land; measures to address pollution of the sea, waste disposal and sewage, environmental research, international co-operation and the dissemination of environmental information to the public.

1991: The national waste management strategy was adopted, overseeing funding as well as strengthened cooperation among local and central governments.

1993: The Law for Environmental Impact Assessment in Iceland was adopted. The legislation is based on regulations adopted by the European Union (EU). The purpose of the Icelandic Environmental Impact Assessment Act is to ensure that prior to decisions on projects that may heavily impact the environment, natural resources and the community, an assessment is made of these issues.

1994: Act No. 162 on organic agricultural production was created to lay down rules on organic agricultural production in Iceland. It applies to the production, processing, transport, storage and distribution of all kinds of organic agricultural products.

2011: The Constitutional Council made reference to the shared responsibility of the nation for the heritage of generations, the country and its history, nature, language and culture. The Council also mentions the obligation of the government to strengthen the welfare of the country‘s inhabitants, encourage their culture and respect the diversity of the life of the people and its biosphere.

2015: Act No. 69 on regional planning and development plans was inaugurated. The purpose of this Act is to strengthen regional development and increase consultation between ministries in the field of regional affairs, within each region and between administrative levels, as well as to transfer to local governments increased responsibility in the field of regional and community development.

2020: The  new Constitutional Bill was introduced. The Key features of the Bill include:

  • Nature conservation
  • Value of nature
  • Responsibility for the protection of the environment and nature
  • Basis for protection of the environment and nature
  • Environmental quality and access to nature
  • The right to a healthy environment.
  • Right to information and participation in decision-making

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • ​​Select industries in Iceland are responsible for approximately 48% of the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the Environment Agency of Iceland. The main source of said emissions are industrial facilities producing metals such as aluminum and steel. Presently, three aluminium smelters, two manufacturing plants and the energy company Reykjavik Energy are working towards becoming carbon neutral by 2040. For the remaining carbon-producing facilities, the CO2 released from their smokestacks will be injected into the Icelandic basalt rock and will eventually turn into stone. This new innovative approach to dealing with CO2 is called carbon capture and storage (CCS), and Iceland has been experimenting with the methodology for years now. CCS entails capturing CO2 and separating it from other gases, transporting it by pipeline or ship to a suitable site, and then injecting it deep underground. Usually, it is injected into large areas of sedimentary rock or depleted oil and gas fields, among other sites. The CO2 is then stored and over time it is turned into a harmless carbonate mineral, such as calcite. In Iceland, ON Power, a subsidiary of Reykjavik Energy, has employed an adapted method called CarbFix to work with the Icelandic rock. As of January 2020, the company has converted over 50,000 tonnes of CO2.

References and Further Reading


The Environment Agency of Iceland: