Climate change communication and education

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1. Context

2. Climate change education and training in the country

3. Climate change communication in the country

4. Monitoring and evaluation


  1. Context

i. Climate change context

Iceland is situated south of the Arctic Circle and is largely defined by its mountainous and volcanic landscapes with relatively mild winters and cool summers. As a constitutional republic, Iceland has a multi-party parliamentary system of government and is divided into 74 municipalities.

According to the World Bank, Iceland is a high-income country with 381,900 inhabitants as of 2022. It is the second-largest island in the European continent, encompassing a land area of 103,000 km2. As mentioned in Iceland’s Seventh National Communication (2018), the majority of the population of the country is concentrated along the coast, with 63% residing in Iceland’s coastal capital city, Reykjavík.

Glaciers are a distinctive feature of Iceland, covering around 10% of its total land area. According to Iceland’s Seventh National Communication (2018) and Iceland’s Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (2021), the country is currently experiencing the melting of glaciers due to climate change. This could lead to major runoff, a rise in sea levels, and fluvial erosion, which could affect hydroelectric power plants and communication lines within the country. Moreover, climate change is contributing to rapid ocean acidification, which is already being observed in parts of Icelandic waters.

The Global Carbon Atlas reports that emissions in Iceland are medium-high, at 9.1 tCO2 per person. According to the 2021 ND-GAIN index, which summarizes a country’s vulnerability to climate change and its readiness to improve resilience to climate change, Iceland ranks 7th out of 185 countries due to low vulnerability and high readiness for climate change. Iceland’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) states that the highest-emitting sectors are industrial processes, which account for 42%, closely followed by energy at 37%, agriculture at 13%, and lastly, waste management at 6%.

Iceland has been an Annex I country member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1994, having ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, the Doha Amendment in 2015, and the Paris Agreement in 2016. Iceland has also been a member of the Aarhus Convention since 2011.

Iceland contributes to the Least Developed Countries Fund under the UNFCCC, which supports such countries in adaptation to climate change by preparing and implementing action plans. The Icelandic authorities also direct efforts to increase the number of women from developing countries in international negotiations on climate change through the Women Delegates Fund of the Women’s Environment & Development Organization.

As part of Iceland’s goal of not leaving anyone behind, the country encourages youth involvement in climate action and in discussions around sustainable development and nature conservation. Two examples of youth participation are the Youth Council for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which implements the Sustainable Development Goals and ensures that the needs of future generations are considered, and the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association (Ungir Umhverfissinar), which encourages positive interactions between society and nature.

ii. Relevant government agencies 

Climate change

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate (formerly the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources) oversees the implementation of the UNFCCC commitments, and coordinates national climate change policy-making in conjunction with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate is also responsible for the different projects conducted as part of the Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018). A steering committee consisting of representatives from different ministries oversees the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, makes proposals for new projects, issues annual reports, and provides information and advice.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are in charge of the national implementation of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals. At the time of this review, Iceland did not have a designated Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs essentially protects Icelandic citizens through international market access and by strengthening free trade. Moreover, the Ministry supports and encourages the development and application of green-energy solutions, particularly in the Arctic region.

The Icelandic Climate Council (Loftslagsráð), which is part of the International Climate Councils Network launched in 2021, was established in 2018 and has responsibility for holding authorities accountable while providing advice on reduction of greenhouse gases, climate change adaptation, and policy objectives related to climate change. Moreover, the Council reviews policies and plans and disseminates information on climate issues to the general public. The Council also monitors new educational projects and disseminates information about them on its website and on social media. The Council’s website highlights the fact that, in Iceland, scientific knowledge and international commitments are linked to policies and actions in climate change matters. Members of the Council include representatives from the business community, academia, municipalities, and environmental non-governmental organizations and are appointed every four years. The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate is in charge of appointing the chair and vice-chair of the Council.

The Environment Agency of Iceland, under the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, is responsible for the measurement and inventory of national emissions and for the removal of greenhouse gases in accordance with the country’s international obligations to the European Union and the UNFCCC. The Agency prepared a National Inventory Report (2022) for the years 1990-2020 as Iceland’s contribution to reporting on greenhouse gas emissions under the Convention and its bilateral agreement with the European Union regarding the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The government established Sustainable Iceland in 2022 to focus on sustainable development, well-being, and a just transition in the country. Consisting of a Sustainability Council, a Steering Group, and an Executive Committee, Sustainable Iceland focuses on many tasks, among which are creating a national sustainable development strategy, developing sustainability and well-being indicators including for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and promoting awareness of the progress and success achieved in sustainable development to authorities, cooperating partners, and the general public.

The Icelandic National Planning Agency, part of the Ministry of Infrastructure, provides advice on planning issues and assists local authorities in preparing, reviewing, and approving plans; develops the National Planning Strategy (2015-2026). Moreover, the agency oversees the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, offering guidelines for environmental impact assessments in the country.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute are two governmental institutions that carry out climate change observations. According to Iceland’s Seventh National Communication (2018), the Icelandic Meteorological Office, under the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, is responsible for atmospheric climate monitoring and observation (including glacier change), the monitoring and archiving of data from nearly 200 stations, and the monitoring of hydrological conditions. These stations allow staff to monitor isostatic crustal changes caused by the melting of glaciers, a result of climate change.

The Office for Climate Services and Adaptation, under the administration of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, aims to cover adaptation initiatives, scenarios derived from the effects of climate change, and monitoring. The Office’s activities target the scientific community, professional organizations, and business seeking to enhance cooperation among these stakeholders and international organizations. The Office also carries out communication activities about the effects of climate change, which target stakeholders and the public. Within the Office’s internal structure, the Scientific Committee on Climate Change maps the state of knowledge about climate change and its effects in the country and points out knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. The Committee consists of representatives from academia and experts in the field of climate and environmental sciences.

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, part of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, leads marine and freshwater research in Iceland and the Arctic. It monitors around 70 hydrobiological stations around the country, contributing to ocean climate observations. Through its monitoring of marine and freshwater ecosystems, the Institute can provide advice on the sustainable use and protection of the environment.

The Youth Council for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of Iceland was founded in 2018 and consists of 12 youths aged 13 to 18 years from across the country. The Youth Council is essentially a living forum that raises awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and of sustainable development in general and gives young people an opportunity to voice their concerns on environmental and climate matters.

Festa – The Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility is a non-profit organization consisting of members from large and small Icelandic businesses, public organizations, universities, the Central Bank of Iceland, and the City of Reykjavík, along with a few other municipalities. The organization acts as a link between and within public and private sectors and focuses on sustainable development through the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change, and corporate social responsibility. Its projects revolve around three pillars: people, earth, and prosperity. Festa also has a representative on the Sustainability Council of Sustainable Iceland.

Education and communication

The Ministry of Education and Children (formerly Ministry of Education, Science and Culture) is responsible for the implementation of legislation at all levels of schooling from pre-primary and compulsory to upper secondary education. The Ministry creates all curriculum guides, issues regulations, and plans educational reforms.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation oversees higher education and grants accreditation to higher education institutions. According to the Seventh National Communication (2018), the Ministry is responsible for the seven higher education institutions in Iceland. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour is responsible for the implementation of legislation regarding continuing and adult education.

The Directorate of Education, established in 2015, is an administrative entity whose objectives are to improve quality and support progress in education, guided by legislation, policies, high-quality evidence, and international standards. The Directorate’s main tasks are to 1) provide all school children with diverse and quality education material that aligns with the Icelandic national curriculum guide; 2) monitor and evaluate school progress, including conducting examinations and international studies like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA); 3) collect, analyze, and disseminate information and provide educational authorities and the public with information and guidance in educational matters; and 4) perform administrative tasks related to the implementation of the national curriculum, accreditation of private schools, licensing of teachers, and services to students.

Rannís, or the Icelandic Centre for Research, reports to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and mainly supports research, education, culture, and innovation in Iceland, administering competitive funding and strategic research programs and promoting public awareness in these fields. Rannís is in charge of the Icelandic Climate Fund, which supports projects relating to climate change issues and provides information and education on climate impacts. Moreover, Rannís oversees the country’s participation in European programs such as Erasmus+ and Creative Europe. An example of this is the LIFE Programme, which funds environment and climate projects and actions, in which Iceland has participated since 2021. The program has four subdivisions, one of which is focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation, contributing toward sustainable development and a climate-neutral economy.

iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans 

Climate change

The Constitution of Iceland (1944, amended 1999) does not address the environment or climate change. As part of the European Economic Area Joint Committee No 269/2019, Iceland committed to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions jointly with the European Union and Norway to meet its objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The Act on Climate Change (2012), which replaced Act no. 65/2007 on emissions of greenhouse gases and was amended in 2021, was the first comprehensive act on climate change in Iceland. The Act has diverse objectives: 1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions economically and efficiently, 2) to increase the binding of carbon from the atmosphere, 3) to promote adaptation to climate change impacts, and 4) to create conditions for the Icelandic government to meet its international commitments on climate issues. According to Article 3, the country seeks to reach net zero emissions by 2040. Article 3 also highlights the need for “the dissemination of education and information about climate issues to the public, companies, institutions and municipalities” (n.p).

The Environment Agency is responsible for implementing the Act on Climate Change (2012). Article 5 of the Act states that the Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate must create a climate action plan to reduce Iceland’s net emissions of greenhouse gases and assist the country in staying on track in meeting its climate commitments. Iceland had prepared climate change strategies in 2002 and in 2007. These strategies preceded Iceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018), which was updated in 2020 as Iceland’s 2020 Climate Action Plan.

The Guiding Principles for Addressing Environmental Issues (2012) document, published by the Icelandic International Development Agency, focuses on two main goals: 1) promoting environmental protection and sustainable development through the prioritization of economic, social, and environmental needs of people in partner countries; and 2) increasing awareness and knowledge about the environment, building capacity, and promoting stakeholder cooperation. The three guiding principles of the Icelandic International Development Agency in addressing environmental issues are respect, protection, and sustainability.

Iceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018) was developed to boost efforts in cutting net emissions to reach the government’s goals of making the country carbon neutral before 2040. The Plan consists of 34 actions, ranging from an increase in reforestation to a ban on new registration of fossil fuel cars by 2030. The main emphasis of this Plan, however, revolves around phasing out fossil fuels in transport and increasing carbon sequestration in land use by restoration of woodlands and wetlands, revegetation, and afforestation. The Plan was updated in 2020 as Iceland’s 2020 Climate Action Plan, with 15 new actions added, totalling 48 actions. The updated plan reflects the comments and suggestions received and the conclusions of a consultation process with civil society and other stakeholders. The action plan lists eight projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland, such as creating a roadmap for reducing emissions in agriculture and strengthening infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Iceland’s Policy for International Development Cooperation for 2019-2023 mentions Sustainable Development Goal 13 in its development goals under Pillar 2 (protection of the earth and sustainable use of natural resources), which seek to increase the resilience and adaptability of societies to climate change.

As a result of the Decision of the European Economic Area Joint Committee No 269/2019 and Iceland and Norway’s joint declaration on national plans, Iceland created Iceland’s National Plan (2020) . The Plan describes how Iceland will fulfill its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions jointly with the European Union and Norway in accordance with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

According to Iceland’s Fourth Biennial Report (2020), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was developing an environmental and climate change strategy that would be supported by an action plan to guide environmental mainstreaming in all development cooperation, although the year of anticipated publication was not available at this time of review.

Iceland has a long-term low-emission development strategy, On the Path to Climate Neutrality (2021), which describes the various milestones that have been reached on the path to climate neutrality. Examples include establishing a climate fund in 2019, launching a two-year campaign to improve energy infrastructure development in 2020, and updating its Nationally Determined Contributions in 2021. The document also outlines possible pathways to achieving a fully climate-neutral country by 2040, based on a public participation survey conducted in Iceland.

Iceland does not yet have a National Adaptation Plan but, as mentioned on the website Climate Adapt, a plan is in preparation (its status was last updated in October 2022). However, Iceland published a Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change in 2021 to form the foundation for the climate adaptation plan, as per Article 5a of Act no. 70 on Climate Change (2012). The strategy outlines many goals, including the public having access to the best available information regarding climate change impacts and research institutions and governmental bodies carrying out research and disseminating information on climate change.

Iceland updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) by enhancing its commitment to an at least 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and this is to be achieved through collaboration with Norway and the European Union and its member states.

A revised National Planning Strategy (2015-2026), which the National Planning Agency is responsible for drafting under the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, will include a policy and guidelines for municipalities on how planning can support climate mitigation actions. The Strategy was still currently being developed at the time of this review.

Education and communication

The Higher Education Act (2006), coordinated by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, governs the seven higher education institutions in Iceland. For quality assurance, the Act requires that higher education institutions comply with the National Qualifications Framework (Section IV, Article 11), stating that institutions must regularly publish information about new study programs, including descriptions of the knowledge, skills, or competencies that must be achieved by students for each qualification of a program.

Iceland’s Youth Act (2007), administered by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, supports the participation of young people from 6 to 25 years old in youth activities. Specifically, this Act refers to activities run by the central government, local authorities, or schools that seek to ensure that young people have access to highly diverse youth activities. The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation appoints nine representatives to the State Youth Council, advises public entities on youth policy, facilitates training and education for leaders/instructors, and strengthens the youth activities of clubs, schools, and organizations, among others.

The Act on Public Higher Education Institutions (2008) lists rules and regulations concerning public higher education institutions in Iceland (University of Iceland, University of Akureyri, the Agricultural University of Iceland, and Hólaskóli – Hólar University College). Moreover, the Policy on Public Universities (2010) was established to create a strong collaborative network among public universities in Iceland. The network offers a diverse higher education to students, enabling them to enrol in courses at a number of institutions. One of the measures included in the Policy made necessary changes to the Act on Public Higher Education Institutions to enable the institutions to operate under the same legislation.

Iceland’s Compulsory School Act (2008) stipulates that school attendance is mandatory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16 and that the Ministry of Education and Children is responsible for the general administration of any matter governed by this Act; for example, issuing the National Curriculum Guides, providing learning materials to compulsory schools, and ensuring that local authorities meet obligations pursuant to this Act.

The Adult Education Act (2010) pertains to the coordination of adult education specifically, to provide those with limited schooling with increased opportunities to be active members of society, provide training opportunities to those in the labour market with limited formal education, and raise the general education level in Iceland, among other responsibilities. The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is responsible for the implementation and administration of this Act.

The Icelandic National Qualification Framework, consisting of seven qualification levels, is a lifelong-learning framework that covers all levels and types of qualification in formal education and training, including certified adult training. The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation coordinates the development of this Framework, which references the European Qualifications Framework. Daily responsibilities for its implementation fall under the Directorate of Education, which also certifies the provision of upper secondary and adult education.

The Iceland 2020: Advance for the Labour Market and Society (2012) document states 15 goals to be achieved over the ensuing decade. One goal to be achieved by 2020 was that “the skills of Icelandic primary school students [would] be comparable to the top 10 nations according to the Programme for International Student Assessment study on reading comprehension and literacy in mathematics and science” (p. 10).

As mentioned in the Guiding Principles for Addressing Environmental Issues (2012) document, the priorities of the Icelandic International Development Agency include strengthening social infrastructure such as education, training, and knowledge dissemination, thus emphasizing strong cooperation with environmental agencies and universities.

Iceland’s 2020 Climate Action Plan (2020) includes 48 actions in total, with Climate education in schools as part of the Transition incentives.

Among the principal actions of Iceland’s Science and Technology Policy: 2020-2022 (2020) is to create a framework and develop a plan to enable the public’s access to evidence-based information. The goal of this action is to guarantee the dissemination of science over the long term. According to the Policy, special efforts will be made to disseminate knowledge of climate issues.

iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication

Education related to climate change and environment is referred to as ‘education towards sustainability’ or ‘education for sustainability’ in the Icelandic National Curriculum Guides for all levels (2014), taking into account present and future generations: “sustainability includes respect for the environment, a sense of responsibility, health, democratic working methods and justice, not only at present but also for future generations” (p. 16).

As per Section 4.1 of Evaluation Policy 2020-2023, the environment is defined as a cross-cutting issue that “shall be addressed in all evaluations, irrespective of whether they were mentioned in the underlying project documents” (p. 11).

Iceland’s National Curriculum Guides also emphasize that education towards sustainability incorporates the three pillars of sustainability (i.e., social, economic, environmental), stating that

“education for sustainability encompasses creating a society of collective responsibility where individuals develop as active citizens, conscious of their own values, attitudes and feelings for global impact and equality of all the inhabitants of the earth, for nature and the environment, for democracy, human rights and justice, for equality and multiculturalism, for welfare and health, and for economic development and vision of the future.”

– Ministry of Education and Children, 2012, p. 18-19

Iceland’s updated Climate Action Plan (2020) includes an education component as one of the “Transition initiatives” and referred to as “Climate education in schools,” and also mentions ‘information on climate change for the public’ as one action.

‘Carbon neutrality’ is a term mentioned frequently in Icelandic documents, such as in the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021), the Voluntary National Review (2019), and the Seventh National Communication (2018). This term is usually discussed in conjunction with mitigation measures or improvement of businesses’ awareness of climate change.

The raising of public awareness, often referred to in terms of ‘climate change awareness’ in the Seventh National Communication (2018), is aimed not only at civil society but also at Icelandic businesses.

v. Budget for climate change education and communication

While there is no budget specifically dedicated to climate change communication and education, the World Bank reported that Iceland spent 7.7% of its gross domestic product on education in 2020.

Iceland joined the United Nations Development Programme as a Climate Promise funding partner, contributing US$ 1.2 million to support over 100 vulnerable countries around the world in climate action. Moreover, in 2010, the government of Iceland contributed US$ 1 million to Fast Start Finance, split among adaptation, mitigation, capacity building, and women’s empowerment in climate change. The contribution was distributed to Iceland’s bilateral partner countries, all of which are least developed countries. Iceland expected to support adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries after the Fast Start Finance period (2013), and to increase the allocations for these efforts by 34%.

Iceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018) mentions that a minimum of US$ 350,716,677 (ISK 46 billion) was expected to be spent on its key climate measures during the period 2020-2024. According to Iceland’s Fourth Biennial Report (2020), climate mitigation measures were to receive an increase in funding of almost US$ 53,365,860 (ISK 7 billion) in 2019-2023. One of the measures, a Special Climate Fund that is administered by the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, is intended to support projects related to climate change education and action. The fund also supports public education and green technology and was allocated US$ 3,812,137 (ISK 500 million) over its first five years.

As mentioned in the Seventh National Communication (2018), US$ 99,268,06 (ISK 1,302 million) was dedicated to climate-specific projects: 53.7% to projects with adaptation objectives only, 35.4% for mitigation objectives only, and 10.9% for projects with both objectives.

In 2018, Iceland spent US$ 14,593 per student in primary, secondary, and post-secondary non-tertiary education, US$ 4,139 higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average of US$ 10,454. At the tertiary level, Iceland invested US$ 15,675 per student, US$ 1,390 less than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

Internationally, Iceland has stepped up contributions to climate finance by doubling its commitment to the Green Climate Fund in 2021-2022 and joining the Adaptation Fund. One of the country’s goals was to contribute US$ 1 million to the Green Climate Fund in 2016-2020.

A little over US$ 1 billion is allocated to the sub-program Climate change adaptation and mitigation of the LIFE Programme for 2021-2027.

  1. Climate change education and training in the country

i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education 

The Ministry of Education and Children has published four National Curriculum Guides: The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Preschools (2011), The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools –With Subjects Areas (2014), The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools – General Section (2013), and The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Upper Secondary Schools- General Section (2012). All curriculum guides mention climate change, stating that “environmental protection, climate change and biodiversity are examples of tasks to be tackled” (p. 18). The National Curriculum for Compulsory Schools – With Subjects Areas (2014) mentions climate change one more time, specifying that, at the completion of Grade 10, students should be able to explain climate change and its causes and consequences. Moreover, ‘climate’ is mentioned several times within this curriculum guide, with pupils in various grades being able to describe how climate influences people and to explain the processes that influence climate. All curricula include the same six pillars, one of which is Education towards sustainability, which focuses on the interconnectivity of the environment, economy, and society. Under this pillar, students are expected to become familiar with environmental and sustainable development concepts and use that knowledge to improve and work toward a better society for not only the present but also for future generations. Climate change and biodiversity are mentioned as issues to be tackled within the curricula but, at this time of this review, no measures had been outlined as to how to integrate these issues within classes.

The Directorate of Education is responsible for coordinated national examinations for Grades 4, 7, and 10 and also for carrying out international comparative measures like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and The Teaching and Learning International Survey. The Directorate has established a special task force to promote literacy objectives by carrying out standardized literacy tests and advising teachers and schools on how to improve teaching methods. On the Directorate’s website, many open-access online course books are available, including ones on sustainability, clean oceans, biodiversity, and nature that have been facilitated by the Environment Agency of Iceland and non-governmental environmental organizations. More educational materials can also be found on the Is the Earth at Risk? and Nordic websites.

Landvernd – Icelandic Environmental Association is a non-governmental organization based in Reykjavík. Established in 1969, Landvernd is the leading nature conservation association in Iceland. Its efforts are centred mainly on soil and vegetation but, in more recent years, the organization has focused on creating educational materials on climate change issues for schools, in light of its experience in creating educational materials on sustainability and environmental issues. The organization is the largest environmental education provider in the country, running educational programs at all school levels. The Eco-Schools program, an international project that is part of the world's largest environmental education organization, the Foundation for Environmental Education, has been running in Iceland since 2001. Managed by Landvernd and funded by the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Eco-Schools offers education on environmental and sustainability issues at the preschool, compulsory, and upper secondary levels and aims to encourage students to be active in how their school can be run to benefit the environment. In 2017, 182 schools at all levels participated, reaching 32% of children at preschool, 46% at the compulsory level, and 42% at the upper secondary level. Landvernd assesses a school’s work on themes such as climate change, consumption, energy, waste, and biodiversity, and schools that fulfill the criteria are awarded the green flag, which they can hold for two years before renewing. Landvernd’s education on climate issues is available to all schools regardless of whether or not they are part of Eco-Schools. The organization also designs educational materials on complex environmental issues for the upper secondary school level to enhance students’ abilities to take climate change action.

In 2021, KrakkaRÚV, in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, produced 17 short television shows (one for each Sustainable Development Goal) that were aired on RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. The shows, created for children , followed two young persons, Aron Gauti Krinstinsson and Steinunn Kristín Valtýsdóttir, on their quest to learn about the Sustainable Development Goals. The aim was to educate children about the goals and to encourage critical discussions about sustainable development at the national and international levels. The episodes are available on the government’s Sustainable Development Goal website, together with teaching materials from the United Nations. When the shows aired, the prime minister, minister for foreign affairs, and minister for education sent a letter to all primary schools encouraging teachers to familiarize themselves with the material and to implement it in their teaching.

A plan is underway for education on climate issues in kindergartens and in primary and secondary schools in cooperation with other schools and non-governmental organizations, as per Measure 26 of Iceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018).

ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources

Many programs and courses offered by Erasmus+ aim to train teachers on climate change education and to enhance climate change knowledge amongst students. For example, the Greener Schools for a Sustainable Future: Climate Change Education in Reykjavík (Iceland) course offers teachers of preschool, primary, secondary, vocational, adult, and special needs students materials to guide them in developing real-life action plans to help students reduce their ecological footprint and in raising awareness within the school community about the effects and risks of climate change over the short and long term. Another course, Climate Cares! Education for a Better Environment – Reykjavík, Iceland, trains teachers to develop environmental consciousness in schools, and to empower children to fight climate change and adopt habits that lead to a healthy planet. Lastly, the project Promoting Greener Schools with Digital Storytelling focuses on changing students’ attitudes and encouraging them to take action against the climate change crisis in their communities while networking with schools abroad. This project is designed to support both teachers and students in elementary and upper secondary schools by developing new teaching methods (for example, digital storytelling, problem-based learning).

Astrid is a digital platform designed by Gagarín, an interactive-experience design studio in Iceland, which provides climate change education in a manner that engages and empowers both students and teachers. Astrid offers many resources to aid teachers in developing impactful climate change communication and education using a science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics approach to be as holistic as possible, acknowledging that each student learns differently. Astrid’s products and resources are aimed at reaching youth before climate anxiety sets in, focusing on inspiring and motivating them to take action based on scientific evidence.

Reykjavík University is a partner in Environmental Education – Open Educational Resources for Rural Citizens, a higher education project that contributes to education for environmental citizenship by providing teaching modules (developed as open education resources) to those living in rural communities or to anyone with limited access to environmental education. Objectives of this project include supporting and improving teaching methods and offering opportunities to partners from higher education institutions to be active in the fields of education and training and also to deliver learning modules for continuous training to public entities, civil society, and other organizations active in different socio-economic sectors. The six learning modules are available to pre-service teachers with a post-secondary degree who wish to develop/update their knowledge, skills, and competencies in the environmental domain. The six modules are 1) Sustainable Communities and Social Communication, 2) Environmental Quality, 3) Environmental Management, Impact and Risk Assessment, 4) Waste Management in Rural Communities, 5) Water Resources and Water Balance for Sustainable Communities, and 6) Environmental Projects Management.

iii. Climate change in higher education

A growing number of programs with an emphasis on environmental science and climate change topics are available at higher education institutions in Iceland. For example, the University of Akureyri offers a master’s program in Natural Resources Sciences, and the University of Iceland offers a master’s program in Environment and Natural Resources and a doctorate in Environmental Studies. At the bachelor’s level, the Agricultural University of Iceland offers a degree in Environmental Sciences. Furthermore, a variety of courses on sustainability, climate change, and environmental issues are available at all of the aforementioned institutions.

The Climate Change Knowledge Hub, an output of research that the Student Innovation Fund funded in 2022, was created in collaboration with the Reykjavík City Office of Human Rights & Democracy, Reykjavík City Department of Environment and Planning, and the Gender Studies program at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Iceland. The aim of the project is to map gender and equality perspectives that should be considered concurrently with the development of Reykjavík toward a just transition to carbon neutrality.

Moreover, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute is a partner of ECOTIP Arctic, a research project focused on understanding and predicting changes in Arctic marine biodiversity and the implications for fisheries production and carbon sequestration in the face of climate change and other pressures.

iv. Climate change in training and adult learning 

To motivate businesses to participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Festa – the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility has undertaken projects such as the development of a toolbox for corporations, education on upcoming changes in corporate sustainability reporting, and 17 Rooms workshops. The 17 Rooms workshop methodology, first created by the Brookings Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation, involves participants from different sectors coming together in rooms, one for each Sustainable Development Goal, to collectively identify actions that can be carried out over 12 to 18 months. The participants then present their ideas to other rooms to find opportunities for collaboration. In 2022, the action agendas for Room 4 focused on addressing climate change in schools and communities through the launching of a 12-month road map (from COP27 to COP28) for teachers and education leaders to co-create a climate-ready education system for everyone. The action agendas for Room 13 promoted a financial strategy that prioritizes green transitions in sustainable development, aiming to inform the work of global financial and policy leaders.

Through the Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainability and Societal Change (GRÓ), Iceland runs four training programs, funded as part of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs development assistance plan, that contribute to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) strategic program objectives. Three of the four training programs, which were joined together to form the Centre in 2020, could be linked to climate change action:

  1. The Geothermal Training Programme, established in 1979 and hosted by Iceland GeoSurvey, is a postgraduate training program that assists lower- to middle-income countries in capacity strengthening within geothermal exploration and development. Sixty-five countries participate in this program.
  2. The Land Restoration Training Programme, founded in 2007 and hosted by the Agricultural University of Iceland, provides research and training in land restoration that enables experts from developing countries to promote sustainable management and gender equality. The Programme includes short courses in Uganda, such as Sustainable Land Management, Land Restoration and Linkages to Climate Change, and has 14 partner countries and 71 collaborating institutions.
  3. The Gender Equality Studies & Training Programme, established in 2009 and hosted by the University of Iceland, promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in developing countries through education and training. At the time of this review, this program was involved with two projects in the field of women and sustainable energy, and previous projects have included a training course on gender and climate change in Uganda. Alumni represent 34 countries and include researchers, artists, activists, government officials, and graduate students.

A non-government initiative by the Wright-Ingraham Institute, an education and research institution established in Colorado in the United States in 1970, offers a program called Icelandic Field Stations that consists of field studies and lectures led by Icelandic and international scholars to enrich a transdisciplinary understanding of the country’s culture-nature environment. Foundational topics include climate change, specifically glacial recession and the changing landscapes, as well as environmental arts and ecology. Participants can develop projects and submit papers for publication; however, an output is not necessary as participating in the daily activities suffices.

  1. Climate change communication in the country

i. Climate change and public awareness 

According to the Seventh National Communication (2018), Festa – The Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility and local authorities from Reykjavík city took action to increase climate change awareness and action amongst companies based in Reykjavík. The companies were asked to sign a joint declaration on actions that would mitigate and adapt to climate change. Created in light of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, in 2015, the declaration is meant to inspire organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Thus far, 107 companies, from manufacturing and service companies to universities, have signed the declaration. Signatories are invited to participate in organized training, dialogue events, and conferences and workshops on climate change and corporate social responsibility. Companies regularly publish status reports that record reductions in waste and in greenhouse gas emissions. No reports were available at the time of this review.

Sustainable Iceland, a platform for cooperation that the Prime Minister’s Office oversees, was established in 2022 to accelerate action toward sustainable development. The organization was to formulate a new strategy for sustainable development that would be submitted to Parliament by the end of 2023. The Sustainability Council serves as an advisory group to Sustainable Iceland, with its members actively involved in work planning. Icelandic civil society organizations have access to a platform so they can influence the government’s policy on sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals through Sustainable Iceland and the Sustainability Council by monitoring the progress of the country’s national policy on sustainable development. The Sustainability Council includes representatives from 23 civil society organizations.

Campaigns have contributed to education on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, a special communications officer for the Sustainable Development Goals, appointed by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, launched two promotional campaigns in 2018. One campaign, Let’s Have Good News to Tell in 2030, on social media and on television and using banners and ads on websites, envisioned the world in 2030, when the Sustainable Development Goals will have been achieved, and promoted public participation in their implementation. The other promotional campaign was a documentary series about an Icelandic teenage girl who travelled to Uganda, Iceland’s partner country in development cooperation, which highlighted the similarities and differences between young people in the two countries and how some of the Sustainable Development Goals come into play. RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, broadcast the campaign.

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate has tasked Vatnajökull National Park and the Icelandic Meteorological Office with implementing a project called Icelandic Glaciers – A Natural Laboratory To Study Climate Change, or Melting Glaciers for short, in collaboration with Southwest Iceland Nature Research Centre and the Institute of Earth Sciences of the University of Iceland. The project emphasizes the visibility of climate change and targets increasing the public’s awareness of climate change. The project also disseminates public information and educational materials on melting glaciers, as well as a newsletter and teaching materials for park guides in Vatnajökull that can be accessed on a dedicated website. Information signs placed on walking paths in the park enable tourists and the public to learn about the glaciers and the transformation that melting causes.

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate hosts an annual Environment Day (April 25) that focuses on international environmental issues, including climate change and sustainability. This day honours Sveinn Pálsson, who was born on April 25, 1762, was a pioneer in glacier research, and is considered one of the first Icelanders to draw attention to the concept of sustainable development. The minister presents awards to chosen individuals, media, school children, or companies for their commitment to the environment, which is often publicized in mainstream media.

In 2021, the Icelandic chair (at that time) of the European Free Trade Association Standing Committee provided a webinar on Combatting Climate Change with Green Solutions in Iceland that offered an Icelandic perspective on innovative green solutions to combat climate change. The webinar featured some of the most innovative and successful projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland through short videos and presentations. The projects included Carbfix, Carbon Recycling International, Pure North Recycling, and CIRCULAR Solutions. The webinar specifically targeted policymakers, as well as experts and scholars in the field of green technology solutions.

At the university level, the University of Iceland annually hosts The Green Days, organized by the Student Council and Gaia, the student organization of the Environment and Natural Resources master’s program, to raise awareness of climate change and environmental stewardship both within the university and beyond. Each year has a different theme, with the university having already chosen the themes of sustainable transportation, the ocean, and, in 2023, consumption and waste.

The Green Building Council Iceland, founded in 2010, is another non-governmental organization that works toward a healthy and sustainable environment for all by promoting awareness, green action planning, and the lobbying of authorities to pass legislation that will push forward sustainable development. The Council is part of the World Green Building Council, which has three impact areas: 1) climate action, 2) health and well-being, and 3) resources and circularity. The category of climate action focuses mainly on the complete decarbonization of buildings by 2050. Activities occur in three areas: 1) informing: publishing educational materials, participating in research and development projects, and organizing educational events on sustainable construction; 2) encouraging: encouraging market players to be accountable in social responsibility, encouraging the public sector to reward projects that meet environmental requirements with economic incentives, and promoting circular economy; and 3) connecting: bringing people together for sustainability of the local environment and cooperating with other organizations in Nordic countries.

Another non-governmental organization, The Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association (Ungir Umhverfissinar) aims to empower young people to positively influence the way society interacts with nature. The issues that this youth organization targets include climate change, overconsumption, wilderness protection, and biological and geological diversity.

ii. Climate change and public access to information 

Iceland’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention in 2011 ensured the public’s right to participation in and information on environmental matters.

A public information campaign on climate change is planned, as per Measure 27 of Iceland’s Climate Action Plan for 2018-2030 (2018). The campaign will emphasize information on decreasing one’s individual carbon footprint and on student participation in formulating solutions to climate and environmental issues. The projects in this action plan will require the strengthening of infrastructure to manage climate policies and support for projects that further analyze the consequences of climate change and disseminate them to the public. For example, Icelandic glaciers are a natural laboratory for climate change, and the reduction in their mass balance is visible evidence of climate change. In Iceland, glacier mass balance has great educational value for citizens, tourists, and the world. The project in the climate action plan revolving around glaciers focuses on the dissemination of results and using them for public education as well as tourism.

Iceland’s Seventh National Communication (2018) mentions that the government has open access to national and local media due to the country’s small population, resulting in a higher rate of dissemination of environmental information. Information officers working for the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate have direct contact with media stakeholders, which presents an opportunity to spread information on environmental issues on television and radio channels and in newspapers.

According to Iceland’s Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (2021), some of the major goals pertain to public access to information and awareness. Core Goal M3 states that “the public shall have access to the best available information and scenarios on the impacts of climate change” (p. 15). Core Goal M4 states that “the role of research institutions, government bodies, and other research bodies shall [be research on and dissemination] of issues regarding knowledge about the impacts of climate change” (p. 16).

The public can access information and policies relating to climate change online through many websites, including those of the Government of Iceland, the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, the Environment Agency of Iceland, the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and the Icelandic Forest Service. The public can also access information regarding private energy use and household emissions on the Energy Centre website.

iii. Climate change and public participation 

Public consultations are a key feature of the legislation Environmental Impact Assessment Act (2000).

Iceland’s document, On the Path to Climate Neutrality (2021) illustrates the importance of engaging all stakeholders in consultations and decision-making processes about achieving climate neutrality within the country. On behalf of the Icelandic government, the University of Iceland and the University of Reykjavík carried out a public participation study in 2021 to initiate a dialogue on the possible pathways to reach climate neutrality in Iceland by 2040. Participants discussed various topics, and moderators would elaborate on those discussions, with researchers and moderators analyzing the discussions and different scenarios based on the solutions provided by the public.

The list of Priorities for Iceland’s Presidency of the Council of Europe (2023) included the environment as well as children and youth, stating that “children and youth are the most impacted by today’s global environmental crisis.” (p.4). Thus, Iceland supports the notion that young people be respected as active democratic citizens and included in all decision-making processes, not just decisions concerning them. During Iceland’s presidency, the country was to organize consultative meetings with young people on climate change and support the follow-up to the Democracy Here | Democracy Now youth campaign to strengthen mutual trust between youth and democratic institutions.

For Iceland’s second Voluntary National Review (2023), public feedback was gathered through the government . Through the portal, the public could find legislative plans, drafts of bills and regulations, documents on strategic planning, and more. Anyone could submit comments or suggestions and subscribe to automatic updates of information. At the end of the consultation period, the comments were processed, and the outcomes were reported. Only three opinions were received through the portal, from the Icelandic Teachers’ Union, The Icelandic Disability Alliance, and Save the Children in Iceland, and they were considered in writing the final report. According to the Voluntary National Review, the low response rate may have been due to concurrent stakeholder consultations.

In 2002, Pro Velo launched a campaign called Biking to Work to highlight the ecological and health benefits of this mode of transportation. Icelanders were encouraged to stop using their cars and to cycle or walk instead, and great participation from the public ensued, with nearly 100,000 people who cycled to work in 2023.

  1. Monitoring and evaluation

i. Country monitoring 

As mentioned on the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate’s website, a status report that reviews progress on and evaluates results for Iceland's 2020 Climate Action Plan (2020) is published annually. According to the Act on Climate Change (2012), the action plan as a whole must be reviewed every four years. Moreover, if measurements indicate that future emissions will be higher than the commitments stated, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate is responsible for taking appropriate measures and presenting a legislative proposal that addresses this issue. The Steering Committee, part of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate, reports annually on the progress of the Climate Action Plan, including on emissions trends and the extent to which plans and recommendations for improvement are being followed.

The Environment Agency of Iceland is responsible for conserving sensitive natural areas and habitats within the country and for monitoring these protected areas, other than Vatnajökull National Park and Thingvellir National Park. Moreover, the agency monitors air quality through meters placed at selected locations around Iceland. The health inspectorates of local authorities also play a role in the monitoring and supervision of air quality.

The Directorate of Education oversees and provides examinations to pre-primary and compulsory schools and, as of 2014, to upper secondary schools. Every compulsory school in Iceland is subject to external evaluation by the Directorate every five years. The Directorate is also responsible for administering standardized tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Teaching and Learning International Survey. Since 2015, the Directorate has coordinated the development of indicators to assess the implementation of the fundamental pillars of Iceland’s national curricula.

According to Iceland’s Report on Policies, Measures, and Projections: Projections of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Iceland until 2040 (2022), updated climate legislation mandates that all government agencies, municipalities, and government majority-owned companies shall, by law, develop a climate policy and set targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The Environment Agency of Iceland is responsible for monitoring all climate policies and for ensuring that measures taken are appropriate to the targets set and to give guidance to government agencies on how to calculate greenhouse gas emissions and track targets. Building on progress from Iceland’s first Voluntary National Review (2019), a second Voluntary National Review was published in 2023 with 70% more coverage of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal indicators. According to this updated document, Iceland scored mostly green (close to achieving or has achieved the target) for Sustainable Development Goal 4 but scored mostly yellow (some progress toward the target) and red (not close to achieving target) for Sustainable Development Goal 13. The only target of Sustainable Development Goal 13 that scored green was Target 13.3, which addresses sustainable development, a core value in the country’s education policy and in public education on climate issues.

According to the second Voluntary National Review (2023), one of the main tasks of Sustainable Iceland is to develop, coordinate, and implement sustainability indicators, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and indicators of well-being. Sustainable Iceland is also responsible for developing indicators used to monitor the national strategy for sustainable development for 2030, which was to be completed by the end of 2023. The process of creating this national strategy was split into three parts: 1) a green paper was created in conjunction with members of the Sustainability Council, 2) a white paper containing the vision and goals for the future was developed, as well as a suggested action plan to achieve those goals, and 3) a strategy proposal was to be presented to the ministers of the Icelandic government in December 2023.

The Icelandic Climate Council (Loftslagsráð) has many responsibilities, including monitoring the dissemination of information and education. They review proposals from government agencies about monitoring and climate-related research, provide evidence-led advice and assessment of actions by government and other stakeholders regarding climate mitigation and/or adaptation, and review government climate policies and plans during preparation phases.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History, under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate, primarily conducts research on the zoology, botany, and geology of Iceland and also preserves research findings in scientific collections. The institute plays a significant role in monitoring and education while also providing advice on nature conservation and natural resource allocation. Tasks include 1) assessing the conservation value and status of species, habitats, and geological formations; 2) publishing written material of scientific merit; 3) disseminating information and educational materials; and 4) monitoring developments within fields of scientific study at the institute.

A Scientific Committee on Climate Change, part of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, led the issuing of a third report, Impacts of Climate Change on Iceland (2018) with a Scientific Committee on Climate Change. The report includes the evolution of Icelandic climate, the observed impacts of warming in the country, with a focus on glaciers, and the country’s adaptation needs.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change requires Parties to report annually on their greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks. In April 2023, Iceland submitted its annual National Inventory Report, which summarized greenhouse gas emissions in the country between 1990 and 2021. The Environment Agency of Iceland, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, and the Iceland Forest Service wrote the Report.

ii. MECCE Project Monitoring

The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication Education Project reviews only compulsory national curriculum frameworks. For Iceland, the compulsory-level curricula (The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools – With Subjects Areas (2014) and The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools – General Section (2013)) were analyzed for references to various terms.

The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools – With Subjects Areas (2014) refers once to ‘biodiversity’’; 22 times to terms related to sustainability; 17 times to the environment in general; and twice to ‘climate change.’

The Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Compulsory Schools – General Section (2013) refers once to ‘biodiversity; seven times to terms related to sustainability; three times to the environment in general; and once to ‘climate change.’


This section will be updated as the MECCE project develops.

Last modified:

Wed, 29/11/2023 - 10:13