Page last updated: 20th November 2013



Iceland’s QELRO for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol is 80, leading to average annual emission reductions of 20% over the period (excl. LULUCF). With current policies in place emissions in 2020 are not only expected to not decrease, but to increase substantially between 25-92% relative to 1990 levels. Even substantial credits from LULUCF are unlikely to be able to compensate for increasing levels of industrial emissions. The challenge for Iceland will be to retain and expand their high level of renewable energy use.


Pledge description

In May 2012, Iceland submitted a QELRO level of 80 for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. This means that Iceland’s average yearly emissions (excluding LULUCF) during the period of 2013-2020 would be between 20% of 1990 levels.

Iceland's Kyoto Protocol target for the first commitment period is +10% relative to 1990 emission levels.

In May 2009, Iceland proposed to decrease emissions by -15% relative to 1990 by 2020 and from -50 to -75% by 2050. In February 2010, Iceland announced that in a joint effort with the EU they would adhere to the -30% target of 1990 emissions by 2020 as part of a global agreement post-2012 provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable efforts and developing countries contribute according to their capabilities.

The -15% target is conditional on keeping the current Marrakesh Accords, in particular on LULUCF and Decision 14/CP.7, which allows Iceland a special exemption for single large projects to be excluded from the base year (Republic of Iceland, 2009).


Current trend description

With currently implemented policies, Iceland will actually increase its emissions within the range of 25-92% relative to 1990 levels by 2020, depending on the country’s expected growth rate. This means the country is not on track to meet its target. Policies are estimated to lead to emissions levels (excl. LULUCF) of between 4.4 MtCO2e and 6.7 MtCO2e by 2020.

A significant increase in emissions already took place, between 1990 to 2007, mainly due to the expansion of heavy industry in Iceland; especially in the field of aluminium production. The economic crisis turned this trend around and there are very different expectations on how this would continue in the future. While the last National Communication, prepared in the middle of the economic crisis, took a rather conservative approach to future economic growth, more recent data expects a resurgence of the pre-crisis trend.

Nevertheless a number of policies are in place that address emissions from all sectors. Iceland's energy use is characterized by a strong dominance of renewable energy sources, which cover 80% of energy use and almost all of stationary energy. The challenge for the future will be to remain and enhance this level with future economic expansion.

Main instruments of climate policy are Iceland's participation in the EU ETS, its carbon tax on fossil fuels, and afforestation and re-vegetation activities.

Date of pledge
May 2012



We calculated Iceland's LULUCF accounting quantities in 2020 for afforestation, reforestation and deforestation using the current Kyoto rules. Iceland has submitted new information on forest management reference levels using a net-net approach with a projected reference level for 2013-2020.

While Iceland elected to account for re-vegetation for the first commitment period, it has not provided any data for re-vegetation so that this has not been considered in the present analysis.

Current trend

The current trend projections were based on Iceland’s Fifth National Communication on Climate Change 2010 (Ministry for the Environment, 2010) (lower bound) and EEA GHG trends and projections 2012 (EEA, 2012) (upper bound). Historic emissions were taken from the greenhouse gas emission inventories based on the CRF 2013.


CRF (2013). UNFCCC AWG-KP Submissions 2013. Common Reporting Format.

European Environment Agency (2012). Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2012. Copenhagen.

Ministry for the Environment (2010a). Iceland’s pledge to the Copenhagen Accord. Compiled in: Compilation of economy-wide emission reduction targets to be implemented by Parties included in Annex I to the Convention, UNFCCC (2011).

Ministry for the Environment (2010b). Iceland´s Fifth National Communication on Climate Change

Republic of Iceland (2012) Information by Parties included in Annex I listed in annex 1 to decision 1/CMP.7 on their quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol

Republic of Iceland (2009a). A proposal for an amendment to decision 16/CMP.1 on Land use, land-use change and forestry, 24 April 2009, FCCC/KP/AWG/2009/MISC.11

Republic of Iceland (2009b). Joint Submission by Australia, Belarus, Canada, European Community and its Member States, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Russian Federation, Switzerland and Ukraine, 11 June 2009, FCCC/KP/AWG/2009/MISC.13/Add.1 

Republic of Iceland (2009c) Informal data submission on LULUCF to the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), 8 December 2009

Snorrason, A (2011) Prediction of Reference Level for the period 2013-2020 for forest management in Iceland, Iceland Forest Research