ByLauren Murphy

Apr 26, 2018
Beautiful Godafoss waterfall in Iceland

Iceland has experienced a bumpy political climate since its economic downfall in 2008, leading to the election of four prime ministers in just two years. Now, the country is looking to an environmentalist to unite voters and spur positive change.

“A lot has happened in Icelandic politics, and people really don’t trust Icelandic politicians. I can’t blame them,” new prime minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir told The Guardian. “But now we need to think how we can best rebuild trust in politics.”

Jakobsdóttir is the second female prime minister in Iceland and has bold political goals on environmentalism, gender equality and public service.

Addressing Climate Change

As the chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, the 42-year-old is taking on climate change with plans for a carbon-neutral Iceland by 2040.

Jakobsdóttir assembled a governmental coalition to accomplish this feat by using the power of teamwork. Three government parties with differing political stances will make up this coalition: the Independence Party, the Progressive Party and the Left-Green Movement.

Cooperation among such opposing parties could revamp Iceland’s complicated political landscape and bring lasting environmental policies.

“There are other nations making such goals, but our time schedule is ambitious, and we are going to be five years ahead of our neighbors in the Nordic countries,” Jakobsdóttir announced at the Paris One Planet Summit in December 2017.

Even unlikely Icelandic communities are on board with Jakobsdóttir’s carbon-neutral goals, which go beyond using the country’s abundance of renewable resources. Icelandic sheep farmers are stepping up to the eco-conscious plate, offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees, using renewable fuels and investing in wetland reclamation.

Gender Equality Advances

In addition to making progress on the environmental front, Iceland is tackling gender equality. The small European nation became the first country in the world to enforce an equal pay standard in 2018, thanks to the prime minister’s determination.

“It’s an ongoing fight,” Jakobsdóttir told CNN. “I hope that someday we will reach a gender equality, but I’m also very aware that it’s very deep-rooted.”

She has committed to abolishing Iceland’s gender pay gap by 2022.

Boosting Public Spending

Iceland’s breathtaking natural wonders like volcanoes and geothermal hot springs are a siren song for tourists. After a devastating financial crisis, the country is now experiencing economic prosperity from its booming tourism industry.

Jakobsdóttir has promised to make sure that Iceland’s new economic success leads to a boost in public spending on health and education.

A string of political scandals has roused distrust among Icelandic citizens. Opinion polls prove the tide is changing with their newest prime minister — Jakobsdóttir is widely considered the most trusted and well-liked politician in Iceland.

Will having an environmentalist in the country’s highest office make a difference for the planet? We’d bet an Icelandic pony on it.

By Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.